As lawyers, we all struggle with deadlines. Am I right or am I right? The Big Kahuna of course is getting that damn brief in on time. Over the years I have developed a foolproof method of writing briefs that have not resulted in an malpractice claims. In fact, I’ve actually won the majority of the legal duels. So behold, here is my brilliant method:
Create an Attack Plan. This is very important. Figure out when tasks need to be accomplished, like legal research, getting documents and evidence from the client, drafting affidavits, and writing the damn brief, and then enter the plan into your Outlook or Google calendar and schedule all the appropriate reminders. It doesn’t matter if it’s a good Attack Plan. Here’s why: you will not look at it again and when those Outlook reminders pop up, you’ll just click “Dismiss All” because you’ll be too busy scrambling to finish the project currently on your desk. All you will accomplish by creating an Attack Plan is wasting your time. Thus, this step is not very important.
Thoroughly Read Opposing Counsel’s Brief. Do this immediately upon receipt. Nah. Just skim it, file it, and convince yourself that you already read it thoroughly and that there aren’t any bombs in it.
Communicate with Your Client. You should do this as soon as you’ve thoroughly read the opposing brief and have an idea what evidence and other information you’ll need from your client. Tell the client they need to prepare an affidavit stating the relevant facts, which you’ll convert into the facts section in the brief. The client, like you, will wait until the last minute to deliver their “affidavit” or, alternatively, will deliver 42 pages of indecipherable ramblings. It will have only one paragraph. Because your client was unable to deliver, a day before the brief is due (or possibly on the day of) you will need to take the facts section from your brief that you should have written by now, convert it to an affidavit, and send to the client with instructions to sign it immediately.
Perform Stellar Legal Research. Research the law in support of your case soon you’ve thoroughly read the opposing brief. Failing to do that, you’ll set your mind at ease that you can rely on the legal research you performed when you originally drafted the Complaint. Several days before your brief is due, you will open the file named “Legal research” and — to your horror — discover that the only research you had performed consisted of downloading some hack lawyer’s blog post about outrageous personal injury lawsuits. Worse yet, you discover that the post wasn’t even accurate!? This brings us to the next — and crucial — step . . .
You Are Fucked. This is what you’re thinking. And it’s true. You are. But this is when your “good lawyer instincts” kick in. You drop everything, ignore everyone, quit eating, and pull all-nighters. Finally, you’re on top of it. You. Are. A. MACHINE! You have solid arguments, strong legal authority, and control of the facts. But you only have three hours left to write it. You are fucked.
Research Timeliness Standard. This is when you realize the brief is going to be late. So what? You dig in and research that pressing question. And you discover — as you did on the last brief — that you should be okay. That opposing counsel will likely whine about it, but the judge won’t care so long as it’s only a day late. You call your wife and tell her you’ll be home in a few hours. Wrong. You pull another all-nighter.
Write Down What You Learned. “This will never happen again,” you tell yourself. “I’ll write down what I learned and how to do it right next time,” you say. But not right now. You have another brief due in two days.
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