Ross Guberman.jpgThere’s a new book on my shelf. I’ve placed it right next to McFadden’s book on Georgia Appellate Practice, Aldisert’s Winning on Appeal, and Butterick’s Typography for Lawyers. That book is Ross Guberman’s Point Made: How to Write Like the Nation’s Top Advocates. Unlike many books on the subject, this one takes legal writing from the top appellate advocates and breaks their work down into techniques you can immediately begin applying to your legal writing.

I also found that many of the basic techniques also work well for oral presentations in court. Even better, this book is more affordable than most legal publications. You don’t have to go through West or Lexis. You can buy this one at Amazon for an affordable price. Ross Guberman was kind enough to let me interview him about his new book, which you will find below in a Q&A format.

And you will find below a basic overview of his book along with a couple of workflow tips for how to write excellent briefs even if you are a busy solo practitioner or a busy public defender. Even if you already have his book, you’ll find in this interview even more tips, including how to write excellent brief even if you have a huge caseload.

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Panelist taking notes.jpgEvery now and again, I attend a CLE that does more than satisfy the hours requirement. Occasionally, there is a seminar where I walk out of the room with a new set of tools to become a better lawyer. Such was the case with the Georgia Appellate Practice Seminar sponsored by the Appellate Practice Section of the State Bar of Georgia. I moderated a panel titled, “The Winning Brief: How to Capture the Judge’s Attention (And How to Lose it).”

When I introduced the panel, I confessed up front that I was shamelessly taking advantage of the situation. In essence, the panel was made up of people I would like to corner at a cocktail party and ask questions about how to write a brief until they run away or leap from a window to stop taking questions from me. Friday, they were a captive audience for well over an hour, and I had a big outline of questions prepared to ask them. I asked all the stuff I wanted to know about the most. I hope that the audience (and it was a big audience) didn’t notice that I was taking notes to try to remember as much as I could of what the panelists were saying. I’m going to share some of it with you here. Later this week, I will share with you the great lessons I learned from the panel that spoke on oral argument (most of the lessons they taught were things that I have learned over the years by making the mistakes and learning from them).

The panel was made up of Presiding Judge Herbert Phipps, from the Georgia Court of Appeals. Also on the panel was Judge Stephen Dillard and Judge Christopher McFadden. The practitioner on the panel was Gerard Kleinrock, who is the appellate division for the DeKalb County Public Defenders Office. I was trying to moderate the panel and take notes at the same time. So, there may be some wisdom that doesn’t make it here. I also may be giving the wrong panelist credit or not attributing some of it to anyone because I don’t remember who said what. So, here are things I learned moderating the panel on Oral Argument.

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Evernote_Icon_256.jpgBeing an appellate lawyer is pretty much the same thing as being a professional writer – with a few notable exceptions. Writer’s block and procrastination are not really an option in the kind of writing I do. The penalty for incurable writer’s block isn’t mere artistic angst. Consequences for writer’s block include a client’s anger

typeface.jpgDesign is an important part of brief writing. And the font and layout you choose will have an impact on how the Court receives your brief. It certainly shapes how I feel about writing the brief and submitting it. I cannot see the Courier New Font without thinking of the research, writing, and advocacy in

Anger.JPGAnger is not a good mix with the practice of law. Yet, law is a profession that puts the practitioner in a position where things could make him angry all the time. Litigation, even appellate litigation, is a business of fighting and arguing. Ideally, it’s done in a very scholarly collegial way. Arguing in real life often involves anger. And unfortunatley it is not always so easy to take off the normal person hat when we put on the lawyer hat. Boundaries can break down if you’re not careful.

And that’s just half the job of a lawyer. You must also manage client expectations and be the lightining rod because you’re the closest representative of the judicial system around when bad news comes, when matters are delayed, and when you are taking a course of action that the client either doesn’t understand or doesn’t quite agree with. Miscommunications sometimes happen. So, there are about a million things that can happen in attorney client relationships that lend themselves to anger.

Then comes the judge. You can’t get angry at the judge. Or, at least you can’t show anger toward the judge. But sometimes it’s tough being told by a person in a robe or panels of judges in robe telling you how wrong you are. Generally, it’s all in a day’s work. But in the real world being told you’re wrong can be an anger-invoking moment. We try to be professional. Most of the time we are. But that sort of things could lend itself to anger in the real world.

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