A written address is now an important part of any judicial proceedings in every jurisdiction.
A judge relies on a written address to determine the issues in controversy, and also arrive at a decision.
In the past, oral advocacy held sway in advancing a case during a legal argument in court.
Recently, there is a gradual shift in most jurisdictions to the written form of legal advocacy; a written address.
Because legal advocacy is in large part in the written form, a good writing skill is a great asset to every lawyer.
Whether you are using an oral submission or a written address, your goal is always to persuade the judge.
To effectively persuade a judge, a counsel must capture the essential facts of the case in the written address.
The way you craft your written address can have a big influence on the outcome of a case.
The following written address tips can help lawyers persuade judges and put holes in the case of their opponents.
Plan your Written Address.
Just like any part of a legal case, a written address should be planned and well thought out.
Written submissions have rules of procedure that govern them. A lawyer must therefore follow the structure as provided in the court rules.
Planning your written address should start from the beginning when drafting your pleadings.
Limit your argument to Pleaded Issues.
Some lawyers tend to become carried away by including extraneous issues in their written submissions.
Your pleadings should always guide you in drafting your written submissions as issues not raised in them are considered extraneous.
Always remember – if it is not in the pleadings, it should not be in your written address.
Focus your argument on few issues.
Some lawyers think that when it comes to written addresses, formulating and arguing more issues is better. Big mistake!
Litigation is not gambling. You should not fall into the error of having many issues with an expectation of succeeding in one.
The strategies of having too many issues in your written address will only dissipate your energy; rather focus on a few.
Avoid personalized and Emotional Arguments in a Written Address.
Some lawyers find it difficult to control their emotions as their written addresses read like personal letters to the judge.
Emotions have a way of beclouding a lawyer’s sense of reasoning. The more emotionally detached a lawyer is, the more logical his arguments.
One of the best ways to craft your written address is to write in the third person rather than in the first person.
Keep your arguments in a Written Address short.
There is a limit to the amount of time that you can attentively hold someone’s attention.
People generally suffer from the phenomenon referred to as the law of diminishing returns. If we spend too much time on a particular task, we we will start to perform poorly in it.
Lawyers should therefore keep their written addresses brief, short, and straight to the point.
When your written address contains more words than necessary, it becomes difficult for the judge to follow your argument. Short sentences and paragraphs make your thoughts clearer.
Read Judgment Reports to write great Written Submissions.
Judgment reports are written by judges, and it is a goldmine for those who want to understand how judges think.
Reading judgment reports will help you understand how judges analyze lawyers’ arguments.
Knowing what judges want will enable you to articulate your points and focus on what’s important.
Argue both sides of the Case in your Written Address.
While it is important to focus on your submissions, you should not ignore your opponent’s arguments.
When you argue for both sides, you give the judge an opportunity of seeing the case from another perspective.
Arguing for both sides of a case balances your arguments and makes your submissions more powerful.
Garnish your Written Address with Legal Authorities.
The courts and the judges are guided and bound by what is known in law as the principles of stare decisis.
Stare decisis means a judge must follow the principles and prior decisions of superior courts in deciding similar cases.
When you back up your written address with decided cases and statutory authorities, you leave the judge with no option other than to agree with you.
Some lawyers fall into the error of thinking that the judge knows all the laws in the books, and there is no need to cite legal authorities. Wrong!
For you to persuade a judge, the legal authorities you cite must be on all fours with your case.
It is better not to cite a legal authority than to cite an irrelevant one. Citing irrelevant cases and laws will make you lose credibility in the eyes of the judge.
Avoid Uncouth Language in your Written Submissions.
Another way to lose credibility in the eyes of a judge is to use uncouth language in your written address. There are words that should not be used in a court.
Avoid insult, scorn, sarcasm, offensive, and other uncivil languages when addressing a judge.
Researches have shown that judges lean towards lawyers who are polite and civil in their conduct to the court and their opponents.
Proof-Read your Written Submissions.
Some written addresses are marred by typographical, grammatical, and punctuation errors.
Many lawyers type their written addresses through their secretaries and do not bother to proofread afterward.
Nothing is more annoying to a judge who is constantly trying to make sense of the arguments in your written address.
Avoid lengthy Conclusions in Written Addresses.
Judges are extremely busy and have a lot to read to write their judgments. Therefore do not make your conclusions too long.
Some lawyers see conclusions as an opportunity to start re-arguing the points already canvassed in the written address.
Your conclusion should only contain a prayer for the court to grant your client the relief(s) sought in the case.
Use Paragraphs or Headers to separate your points.
Many lawyers make their written addresses very hard to read by clumping all their points together.
Using paragraphs or headers to start a new point will help the judge to follow your argument sequentially.
Final thoughts on Written Addresses.
Having a good case is one thing, but articulating your points to persuade a judge is quite a different thing.
Some cases have been won and lost at the point of addressing the court. Failure to convince the judge in your address will spell doom for your client.
There is always room for improving your writing style. To be successful in your legal practice you must imbibe the techniques captured in this article.