Thursday, September 1, 2011

Introducing Guest Bloggers!

One way we'll try to offer more consistent blogging is by presenting posts from guest bloggers.  Our first is appellate lawyer M.C. Sungaila of Snell & Wilmer, who offers the following review of recent appellate practice books, including the new one from certified appellate specialist (and fellow blogger), Donna Bader:

"Ah, the lazy days of August – the last opportunity to get in some summer reading.  Sure, you could take a John Grisham novel to the beach, but why not take one of these appellate-related books along instead and improve your practice along with your tan?

Point Made: How to Write Like the Nation’s Top Advocates (Oxford University Press 2011)

Legal writing coach Ross Guberman uses excerpts from briefs written by 50 of the nation’s most well-known advocates to illustrate key concepts of strong persuasive writing. This is a compact book of writing tips – the primary book I recommend to all of my firm’s nascent appellate associates, as well as anyone who wants to improve their appellate writing. Reading a set of well-written appellate briefs can teach you a lot about good writing; having a guide like Guberman to take you through those briefs and explain why they work is even more effective. Among his tips: “Why Should I Care?: Give the court a reason to find for you” and “Wish I Were There: Start each paragraph by answering a question you expect the court to have."

Guberman highlights the work of some high-profile advocates – including Seth Waxman, Carter Phillips, Kathleen Sullivan, Ted Olson, David Boies, and other High Court luminaries. One of the standout briefs he refers to throughout the book is that of now-Chief Justice John Roberts in Alaska v. EPA, a classic federalism fight between the states and the federal government over environmental regulation.  Roberts was defending Alaska, which had approved less stringent technology for controlling air pollution near the Red Dog Mine than the EPA wanted. Roberts’ brief showed why Alaska was better-equipped to make decisions about the mine than the federal government thousands of miles away, by among other things describing the mine’s local history:

'For generations, Inupiat Eskimos hunting and fishing in the DeLong Mountains in Northwest Alaska had been aware of orange- and red-stained creekbeds in which fish could not survive. In the 1960s, a bush pilot and part-time prospector by the name of Bob Baker noticed striking discolorations in the hills and creekbeds of a wide valley in the western DeLongs. Unable to land his plane on the rocky tundra to investigate, Baker alerted the U.S. Geological Survey. Exploration of the area eventually led to the discovery of a wealth of zinc and lead deposits.  Although Baker died before the significance of his observations became known, his faithful traveling companion – an Irish Setter who often flew shotgun – was immortalized by a geologist who dubbed the creek Baker had spotted “Red Dog” creek.'

The story of Red Dog Mine is a page turner in its own right.

Typography for Lawyers: Essential Tools for Polished and Persuasive Documents (Jones McClure 2010).

Once you have a well-written brief, you need to figure out how best to present it.  Matthew Butterick can help you with that. Butterick, a typographer turned lawyer, reminds us that as lawyers we are publishers with a specific goal: to persuade our readers. Typography, he explains, is for the benefit of the reader not the writer, and should reinforce the meaning of the text. Typography is about more than the choice of font; it is about arranging white space and text on a page in a way that holds the reader’s attention. In Typography for Lawyers, Butterick covers everything from the optimal use of hierarchical headings to how many spaces to insert at the end of a sentence (one, not two, contrary to traditional lore). This is the book you never knew you needed until it appeared. My law partner and in-house formatting guru Rick Derevan took this book home as soon as we got it and began to implement strategies to improve the look of our appellate briefs.

An Appeal to Reason: 204 Strategic Tools to Help You Win Your Appeal at Trial (BenchPress Publishing 2011).

OC appellate lawyer Donna Bader, creator of the popular Appeal to Reason blog, has filled a niche in appellate law books with her take on appellate strategizing and positioning before and during trial. This book is like a mini-seminar on record preservation, presenting 204 trial court turning points that might impact a subsequent appeal. Appeal to Reason is a good resource for trial lawyers; it is also a good reminder for appellate lawyers about the areas we need to caution the trial lawyers we partner with about, as far in advance as possible. Appellate lawyers, after all, are increasingly part of the trial team. This book reflects that trend."