Saturday, July 26, 2008

Justice Scalia and Bryan Garner Offer Advocacy Tips

I attended a seminar yesterday on legal advocacy by Justice Scalia and legal-writing guru Bryan Garner, which Garner touted on his website as "The CLE Event of 2008."

Justice Scalia lamented that "lawyers are generally lousy writers," and that it catches a judge's attention when a brief is well-written. He and Garner offered a number of ideas for how to write and argue in a manner that is most likely to sway judges.

There was witty banter and disagreement between the two presenters over such topics as the use of contractions and the use of footnotes. At one point when Garner was speaking, for example, Justice Scalia interrupted, asking pointedly "What are you talking about?," which prompted Garner to move on to his next point. Justice Scalia also questioned the usefulness of amicus briefs, especially those by academics, stating that scholarship and advocacy do not go hand in hand. He added that, "if you think I read all amicus briefs, you're crazy," though he stated that his law clerks would read them all.

Throughout the seminar, Garner interspersed a number of insightful video clips of Justices and Judges he had interviewed. The videos of Garner's interviews with all the Supreme Court Justices (except Justice Souter) are available here.

Overall, I agree with the assessment of Tony Mauro, who described the seminar in a Legal Times article as being "full of funny asides and useful tips." Mauro's article offers a more detailed description of the seminar.

For those who missed it, the same insights offered at the seminar are available in a book by Justice Scalia and Garner, titled Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges. Garner also stated that the seminar was being filmed and that a one-hour highlight video would eventually be made available for free to the public.

Although DC does not have a continuing legal education requirement, I try to attend seminars like this as frequently as possible. Even for seasoned litigators, there are always new insights to be learned and absorbed, and Scalia and Garner have done a commendable job of compiling substantial wisdom into a concise book.


The Law Firm of Kotchen & Low LLP - Civil Litigation, Counseling, and Representation Before Government Agencies

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.