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Pro Tip for Oral Argument: Stop Talking

It is a maxim in trial practice that when you are winning, stop talking.

This does not mean you walk up to the podium with nothing to say. It means that you need to know when you have said enough. Quit while you're ahead.

Oddly, it seems to be a difficult lesson for many lawyers to learn. More than one judge has cringed when an attorney begins with this statement:

"Your honor, I'll be brief."

There are plenty of pronunciations practitioners can disagree on -- voir dire, for example, stare decisis, or even choate. Then there's antecedent, usually said with the emphasis on cede, as in 'ant-a-SEED-ent.' But not by Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan.

Justice Kagan pronounced the word 'an-TESS-a-dent,' like precedent, during oral arguments in 2015, according to Regent University law professor James J. Duane, raising the question of how attorneys should respond to a judge's unusual pronunciation. Do you play along, adopting their emphasis or inflection, use the contrary pronunciation, or correct them outright?

Lawyers love to get worked up about obscure grammar and style rules, almost as much as they like to get in a huff over obscure laws. (Emoluments, anyone?) There's the long-running fight pitting case law aficionados against the caselaw'ers. A recent First Circuit ruling that was decided on the lack of an Oxford comma opened up a new front in that ongoing war. But frankly, that stuff is old news.

The newest major legal writing fight revolves around one of the most pressing issues facing lawyers today: Should you put one or two spaces after a period?

If you come across a stack of legal reporters in a law firm today, you know they're largely for show. The vast majority of our legal research takes place online, through services like Westlaw. And thank God! Searching through the Federal Reporter (600 volumes and counting in the current series) is hardly a joy.

But, if you are relying exclusively on computer research, you may be missing out.

The Great Supreme Court Debate: Apostrophe After 'S'?

As the composition of the U.S. Supreme Court changes, a serious question remains to be decided: Is there a possessive apostrophe after words ending in "s"?

It hardly seems worth considering except that the Court actually considered the question in a decision a decade ago. In Kansas v. Marsh, 548 U.S. 163 (2006), the justices split on whether the apostrophe should come after words ending in "s" or should another "s" be added after the apostrophe.

A bill in the Oklahoma legislature seeks to make it more difficult for some married Oklahomans to get divorced. House Bill 1277, introduced by Representative Travis Dunlap, would get rid of incompatibility as a reason for divorce in many circumstances.

If passed, no fault divorces could be a thing of the past in Sooner State, with quick separations turned into week-long trials.

5 Tips for New Trial Lawyers

It can be tough starting out as a trial lawyer. You may find yourself unsure of what comes next in a case. You might be confused by court procedures, or frustrated by clients. You could be up against seasoned litigators with decades of experience.

But you're not alone. With some prep -- alright, with a lot of prep -- and some good advice, you can become a skilled and successful trial attorney. Here are some tips from the FindLaw archives to help you out.

When it comes to assembling legal documents, does font matter?

Yes! Quite simply, fonts influence how your writing appears and is perceived. There's the elegant (and ink-efficient) Garamond, the matter-of-fact Lucida Sans Typewriter, the "I might as well have just written this in crayon" Comic Sans. Beyond that, some courts have a short list of acceptable fonts, from which practitioners can't deviate. So, if you're looking for the best fonts for your legal docs, here are some suggestions.

Your briefs should be, well, brief, Judge Richard Posner of the Seventh Circuit reminded lawyers in a recent opinion. In a case involving the right to a public audience in a voir dire proceeding, the judge devoted his final paragraph to criticizing the appellate lawyers for their verbosity, for which there was "no justification."

Just how bad was were the briefs in order to justify the public scolding? The parties' briefs, Judge Posner wrote, totaled 250 pages, in a straightforward case where less than 100 pages would have sufficed.

President Obama returned to the pages of the Harvard Law Review last week, publishing a commentary on criminal justice reform in the journal he once edited. The 56-page article surveys the work the Obama administration has taken to address inequities in the criminal justice system while also detailing what remains to be done.

It's a strong defense of the president's criminal justice legacy, as well as a roadmap for future reform. Here are some of the highlights.