Wednesday, October 25, 2017
I have probably spent more time changing the subject of this first blog post than I have spent time doing anything else this past week. I know what my problem is: this is different in so many ways. There are two paralyzing differences that I will focus on today: First, my audience is different, and second, the structure I have come to love is absent.
As an appellate advocate, I made it my mission to figure out the needs of my audience. I learned how busy my audience was. Once you understand just how busy the appellate audience is, you know you need to make adjustments to your writing. For instance, the Federal Judiciary’s 2016 Year-End Report reflects that thousands of appeals are filed yearly in the United States Supreme Court, and tens of thousands are filed in the Regional Circuit Courts of Appeal. There is no room for fluff, or rabbit trails. You must be organized, direct, well-written, and succinct. I felt a lot of comfort in knowing that my busy audience needed me to subscribe to a framework that highlighted my analysis, and left room for little else.
I do not yet know what this audience needs. I am certain that over time, as it did in practice, my writing will adjust to meet the needs that I perceive in this new audience. I look forward to that day, when I find as much comfort in writing to meet the needs of my new “friends,” as I did when I wrote for the appellate audience.
The blog’s lack of a strict framework, is the second thing that makes me uncomfortable. I like the structure of the appellate brief, not only because it helps me to meet the needs of the appellate audience, but because the rule-follower inside me needs the structure. I have always been very comfortable working within legal writing’s strict framework. At the moment, I pine away for the freedom provided by such a framework. Let me explain:
I started my legal career a couple of decades ago, and it was love at first draft. From the moment I began, I could see form and structure in legal writing. As I tell my students, once you yield to the structure you will be free to focus on the most important parts of your brief. Whether you use CREAC, CRAC, IRAC, CRuPAC, or some other related structure (follow the link to see a comparison of the many structures), there is freedom in knowing you do not have to figure out where to put your words. That freedom allows the appellate writer to focus on the words themselves.
In preparation for this post, I began reading blog posts. Did you know that they are very different than your average appellate brief? To prove my point about a blog being different from a brief, I have never included a rhetorical question in a brief. Never. Not even once. In addition, I have never written a one-word sentence in a brief. Yet, after reading so many blogs, I understand that doing so is permissible.
But blogs are also very different structurally from an appellate brief. There are so many styles to choose from. A blog’s organization can be casual or informal, and does not follow a strict format. I do not have to “prove” every point I make. Perhaps most disturbing, however, is the lack of strict formatting, which means that I began a “blank” page. That blankness led to a disorienting sense of disorganization. I now have the beginnings of many posts, each of which began as an aside comment, and which then grew until it became a trail that had to be severed before I wrote myself off an abyss.
I long for the structure of an appellate brief, where one never begins with a blank page, because there in the background, waiting to be revealed, is that glorious legal writing framework.