Visual Rhetoric and Visual Narrativity in Five Sections of a Brief

56 Pages Posted: 29 Jun 2014 Last revised: 21 Sep 2014

See all articles by Michael D. Murray

Michael D. Murray

University of Kentucky, J. David Rosenberg College of Law

Date Written: September 16, 2014


The legal brief of tomorrow will have color, graphics, photographs, imbedded videos, depictions, and diagrammatical elements; it will, in short, be highly visual. The tomorrow I am talking about is the very near future. The confidence with which I bring this prediction is bolstered by the research and scholarship of a wide range of disciplines — law and popular culture, cognitive studies and brain science, data visualization studies, and modern argument theory in rhetoric — and by the development of technology in the production of legal documents, and technology in the reading and reception of legal documents, that converge in one locus: that legal briefs will, and should, become a visual presentation of legal rhetoric and narrativity, and thereby fulfill the professional responsibility of advocates to use the best practices to represent the interests of their clients in law practice.

My Article is the first to connect the lines of convergence into a single discussion and demonstration of the creation of legal documents that reflect the convergence — namely highly visual legal briefs that carry out the goals of rhetoric and narrativity with visual devices.

Although the convergence in circumstances leading to a more visual presentation of legal matters has lessons for all areas of legal practice, this Article focuses directly on the creation of legal briefs, and discusses the use of visual elements in five sections of a typical trial or appellate brief: the Issue or Question Presented; the Introduction or Summary of the Argument; the Statement of Facts; the Argument section’s Explanation of rules; and the Argument section’s Application of rules.

The visual brief of the near future achieves its goals through rhetoric and narrativity — hence the title of the Article, “Visual Rhetoric” and “Visual Narrativity” in five sections of a brief — which means that careful attention to the use of visuals applies in each of the major sections of a brief, not just in the facts section or argument section. My goal is to demonstrate that communication, construction of knowledge and understanding, and ultimately, the persuasion of the audience can be accomplished more effectively through an emphasis on visual rhetoric and visual narrativity in legal works.

Keywords: visual rhetoric, narrative rhetoric, storytelling, appellate advocacy, narrative, visualization, trial advocacy, legal writing

JEL Classification: K10, K12

Suggested Citation

Murray, Michael D., Visual Rhetoric and Visual Narrativity in Five Sections of a Brief (September 16, 2014). Available at SSRN: or

Michael D. Murray (Contact Author)

University of Kentucky, J. David Rosenberg College of Law ( email )

620 S. Limestone Street
Lexington, KY 40506-0048
United States
219-299-9777 (Phone)
859-323-1061 (Fax)


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