Monday, August 27, 2012
This is a great, practical article from the New York Law Journal that you may want to pass along to your students when it comes time for them to add citations to their moot court briefs.
By Harry Steinberg.
Mark Twain had a proclivity for swearing—at the slightest provocation or frustration, he would let forth a stream of profanities that would singe the ears. His long-suffering wife, Livy, thought she would try to break his swearing habit by showing him how unbecoming such outbursts were. The next time she dropped or spilled something, she let loose a burst of profanity that she had carefully memorized from having all too often heard those words coming from her husband's mouth.
Twain did not skip a beat. He looked calmly at his wife and said, "Dear, you have the words, but you lack the melody."
What can the lawyer sitting down to write a motion or brief learn from this story? Simply this: It is not enough to cite cases in a pro forma, "business as usual" manner, as all too many lawyers do. You have to do more than sprinkle cases through your motions or briefs like salt. You have to make every case you cite count. The cases you cite must get your point across in a manner that will persuade the judge to rule in your favor. Citing cases in the usual, dull manner will not get your point across. Put differently, it is not enough to say all the right words—you have to get the melody right as well, as Mrs. Twain learned.
This article focuses on getting the "melody" of case citation right.