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How to Write a Great Closing to Your Brief

A closing argument should be like opening a door, not closing one.

After writing a brief to persuade your audience, you want to finish it by inviting your reader to step through that door to reach your conclusion. It should be more than compelling; it should be impossibly irresistible.

This blog is about how to do it. If you have read this far, then you are ready for that next step:

What to Do If You Have Bad Facts?

It's hard to laugh at Bill Cosby's jokes anymore.

But it is ironic that one of his jokes was at issue in a critical hearing during his sexual assault case pending in Philadelphia. Prosecutors sought to introduce something Cosby said in his book, "Childhood," about giving girls the Spanish fly aphrodisiac to get them interested.

"They're never in the mood for us," Cosby wrote. "They need chemicals."

The judge disallowed the evidence, but will allow even more damning deposition testimony from Cosby himself. The crossroads in the proceedings offers a lesson about how to deal with bad facts in a case.

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.