The Plot Thickens: The Appellate Brief as Story

43 Pages Posted: 12 Jul 2007 Last revised: 5 Jun 2012

See all articles by Kenneth D. Chestek

Kenneth D. Chestek

University of Wyoming College of Law

Date Written: December 18, 2007


Why are appellate briefs boring? Does overreliance on structural paradigms like IRAC lead to formulaic, and overly legalistic, writing? The author suggests that, by conceiving of briefs as stories and consciously using the elements of narrative (character, conflict, setting, theme, and plot, among others), the brief writer can make the client's story come to life for the reader, hopefully producing a more interesting, and therefore compelling, brief. The author has written a brief in a mock case (Rubin v. Old York Department of Social Services), and then deconstructs the brief in the article to show how the author intentionally used the elements of narrative to write a compelling brief in a difficult legal setting. The brief and the record it is based upon are also available for download on SSRN.

Keywords: Appellate brief, Narrative theory, storytelling, legal writing

Suggested Citation

Chestek, Kenneth D., The Plot Thickens: The Appellate Brief as Story (December 18, 2007). Available at SSRN: or

Kenneth D. Chestek (Contact Author)

University of Wyoming College of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 3035
Laramie, WY 82071
United States


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