Monday, November 21, 2016

Attack Adjectives

"Attack adjectives" -- is that a noun or a hortatory command? Both!
Today's DJ features Moskovitz on Appeal in Extremely Effective Advocacy Advice, about the use and misuse of adjectives of the sort that litter briefs all the time, e.g.: "appellant has utterly failed"; "the trial court was obviously wrong"; "the contract is crystal clear"; etc.
But ... these strong modifiers really don't help. Indeed, they might weaken you persuasiveness.
"A federal judge once said to me, "Why is everything 'crystal clear' to the lawyers when it's not crystal clear to me?" Judges are smart and experienced. They are persuaded by facts, law, and policy. They are not easily bamboozled by lawyers' lingo - especially when they see it so often. Viewed from the bench, the adjectives get old pretty fast."

He concludes: "Drop the strong modifiers. Don't say it, show it - with the facts, policy arguments and the law. And if your opponent employs invective rather than insight, make him pay for it - by calling the court's attention to it, very briefly."