Wednesday, June 22, 2016

What Persuades? Good Facts, Good Law, Good Writing

In the June 2016 issue of the Michigan Bar Journal, attorney Kenneth Oettle offers sound advice on persuasive lawyering. To confirm his views, he asked his “polling group”:

The following answers are representative: (1) “use compelling facts, ordered clearly and rationally, that lead the reader to a moral judgment in your favor” (this answer comes very close to home base); (2) “provide good law”; (3) “tell the reader in the first three paragraphs why you should win”; (4) “use nouns and verbs” (as opposed to adverbs and adjectives, which are editorials); (5) “be concise”; (6) “sound authoritative”; and (7) “don’t bad-mouth the adversary.” This last item is more about what not to do, but in this age of incivility, a respectful, low-key brief is like a breath of fresh air and thus is likely to have affirmative persuasive value.

The article discusses these “tactics.” The take-away message:

The synergy of all these tactics produces clarity, which gets the point across and gives you credibility. If you are willing to be clear, then you probably aren’t hiding anything. Basically, you earn credibility by telling the truth clearly, crisply, and with conviction. The more credible you are, the more persuasive you are because courts need to rely on your presentation of facts, caselaw, and argument.

You can access the article here.


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