What are the Best Tips for Writing Appellate Briefs?

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  • Written By: Marlene Garcia
  • Edited By: Daniel Lindley
  • Last Modified Date: 20 March 2020
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The best appellate briefs are concise, adhere to the rules of the court in which they are filed, and present persuasive arguments. They are written in assertive language that is supported by statutes or precedents, and do not attack the opponent’s stance. A successful appellate brief grabs the appellate judge’s attention and provides clear details about the case without repetition. It is written in a neutral, objective tone that supports every fact presented.

Courts in each region or jurisdiction invoke rules for filing appellate briefs in criminal and civil court cases. The rules of the court include page limits, type size, and what each section of the document must include. In some courts, only one side of the page may contain text, while others prefer two-sided briefs. A non-conforming brief could be rejected, wasting hours of preparation time.

Appellate attorneys who use brevity in their briefs, and avoid unnecessary repetition, may gain favor with the court. Appellate judges spend most days reading and generally appreciate concise documents that are clear and to the point. Appellate briefs should not include pages of personal attacks on the opposing attorney’s argument but state the facts of the case without emotion or personal opinions.


Subheads are helpful to organize appellate briefs into manageable segments. Each section should include supporting case law that backs up the arguments presented. Each fact should be linked to a citation in the law or a prior case that dealt with the issues argued in the brief. Citations and notations that help the judge cross-reference them increase the credibility of the lawyer who wrote the brief.

Proofreading and revising are two of the most basic tips for writing appellate briefs. A brief filled with errors or confusing language is unlikely to convince a judge that the argument is sound. Sentences and paragraphs should be short and written without legalese; extraneous adverbs or adjectives that project emotion should be removed. Some appellate lawyers set aside the document for a few days to later view it with a fresh perspective that enables them to spot flaws and trim excess content.

An appellate attorney’s self-confidence and belief in the case represent intangible tips for writing an appellate brief. Extensive research and candor help lawyers develop a convincing argument. If the attorney feels strongly that the case should be overturned and that the lower court ruled in error, it helps him or her compose a more compelling brief.


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