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Improving Your Appellate Briefs: The Best Advice from the Bench, the Bar, and the Academy

Vermont Bar Journal, Winter 2011

Vermont Law School Research Paper No. 11-03

8 Pages Posted: 22 Mar 2011 Last revised: 26 Mar 2011

Brian L. Porto

Vermont Law School


The busy lawyer looking to improve as a brief writer can consult numerous articles addressing various aspects of writing appellate briefs. But judge-written articles appearing in state bar journals are often too short and superficial to help. Some offer overly general advice and neglect to provide examples, while others address just one aspect of brief writing. Conversely, law review articles on brief writing, typically written by law professors, tend to be long and only tangentially related to law practice.

This article, however, distills the best advice from practitioners, judges, and professors, respectively, about writing briefs. It draws on the author’s teaching and brief writing, and on the academic writing and practical experience of others, to offer instructional tips designed to improve all aspects of appellate briefs. Therefore, both the bewildered novice and the grizzled veteran practitioner can benefit from it. So can the legal writing teacher seeking a comprehensive, yet concise guide to brief writing to share with students.

Keywords: Appellate briefs, issue statement, question presented, deep-issue format, statement of the case, Bryan Garner, Ruggero Aldisert, storytelling, Kenneth Chestek, theme statement, argument, intensifiers, dates (overreliance on), summary of argument, argument, flow of argument, headings and subheadings

Suggested Citation

Porto, Brian L., Improving Your Appellate Briefs: The Best Advice from the Bench, the Bar, and the Academy. Vermont Bar Journal, Winter 2011; Vermont Law School Research Paper No. 11-03. Available at SSRN:

Brian L. Porto (Contact Author)

Vermont Law School ( email )

68 North Windsor Street
P.O. Box 60
South Royalton, VT 05068
United States

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