29 Jul 3 Tips for Drafting Effective Reply Briefs
Appellate Innovations is pleased to share this article by guest author, Lisa Solomon.
The reply brief is the movant’s chance to get in the “last word.” For this reason, it deserves as much attention as the opening and opposition briefs. However, reply briefs often get short shrift. It can be a challenge to both succinctly reiterate your position and respond to the opponent’s arguments within the relatively short page (or word) limits, and the limited amount of time, accorded reply briefs.
Here are three tips that will help you draft more effective reply briefs:
- Focus on responding to your opponent’s arguments. Don’t cut and paste arguments from your opening brief. Although it’s wise to briefly reiterate the main points from your opening brief in your reply brief, you should do so in the context of responding to your opponent’s arguments. If your opponent didn’t respond to an argument raised in your opening brief, be sure to bring that failure to the court’s attention, because the failure to respond to an argument concedes it.
- Follow the same organizational structure used in your opening brief. If your opponent is a skilled brief-writer, the points in the opposition brief should be organized in the way that most benefits your opponent. Often, this differs from the organization of your opening brief. Following the same organization in your reply brief as in your opening brief subtly helps imprint that structure on the judge’s mind.
- Don’t introduce new facts or legal arguments. Just as the purpose of the opposition brief is to allow the opponent to respond to the movant’s facts and arguments, the purpose of the reply brief is to is allow the movant to respond to the arguments raised in opposition to the motion. For this reason, courts generally ignore new facts or legal arguments introduced for the first time on reply.
- Bonus tip: If you’ve cross-moved, the reply brief on your motion should be limited to the arguments raised in opposition to your motion: you shouldn’t use your reply brief to reiterate arguments that are relevant solely in opposition to the original motion.
Of course, all of these tips also apply to appellate briefs: just replace “movant” with “appellant” and “non-movant” with “respondent.”
Lisa Solomon is the Founder and CEO of Now Counsel Network (NCN), a nationwide network of experienced freelance lawyers who provide project-based and temporary support to help solos and small law firms increase profits, decrease stress, and get their lives back. NCN freelance lawyers handle all kinds of legal research and writing projects (including drafting pleadings, motions and appellate briefs), all aspects of discovery, depositions, court appearances and more. You can find out more about NCN at www.NowCounselNetwork.com.