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The Empirical Relationship Between Brief Quality and Summary Judgement Success in State and Federal Courts

Legal Writing: Journal of the Legal Writing Institute, Volume 22, 2018, Forthcoming

40 Pages Posted: 8 Jul 2016 Last revised: 23 Mar 2017

Shaun B. Spencer

University of Massachusetts School of Law - Dartmouth

Adam Feldman

Columbia University - Law School; University of Southern California, Political Science, Students

Date Written: March 4, 2017

Abstract

The legal profession and the legal academy stress the importance of clear writing as a substantial component of effective law practice. But does clear writing translate into effective lawyering? This study takes a novel approach by using lawyers’ writing to measure the quality of legal advocacy. It is the only study to do so at the trial court level, where most lawyers practice, and is the first to track the difference in the readability of opposing parties’ briefs in the same case. After earlier studies of appellate brief quality and success on appeal yielded conflicting results, our study provides a clear association between brief readability and favorable outcomes on summary judgment motions. The study focuses on summary judgment motions because they offer a clear dichotomous outcome: the motions are either granted or denied. After controlling for attorney experience, law firm size, and a lawyer’s status as a repeat player before the motion judge, we find a statistically significant correlation between brief readability and summary judgment decisions.

Keywords: Readability, Legal Writing, Summary Judgment, Litigation

JEL Classification: K41

Suggested Citation

Spencer, Shaun B. and Feldman, Adam, The Empirical Relationship Between Brief Quality and Summary Judgement Success in State and Federal Courts (March 4, 2017). Legal Writing: Journal of the Legal Writing Institute, Volume 22, 2018, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2807045 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2807045

Shaun B. Spencer (Contact Author)

University of Massachusetts School of Law - Dartmouth ( email )

333 Faunce Corner Road
North Dartmouth, MA 02747-1252
United States
508-985-1192 (Phone)

Adam Feldman

Columbia University - Law School ( email )

435 West 116th Street
New York, NY 10025
United States

University of Southern California, Political Science, Students ( email )

3518 Trousdale Parkway
VKC 327
Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States
(213)740-1695 (Phone)

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