Look Smart By Following Instructions


I am a relatively new attorney and although I have learned my lesson to an extent, I still tend to ask questions about “what should  . . .” and “do I need to . . .”

As it turns out, many of the answers you are looking for are either in your state’s rules of procedure, the general rules of practice, or an order from the court.

The next time you are lost, or need an answer, try following instructions.

Not sure about form?

For example, perhaps you are submitting a brief to the court of appeals for the first time. Every state has rules of appellate procedure—read them and follow them.

This might seem like simple advice, but people tend to overlook seemingly minor details that can make an impact on the reader. In many cases, failing to follow the proper form can lead to a rejected brief. A friend of mine forgot to sign his brief and had to go back and sign it.

Reread the court’s orders

Many judges want courtesy copies of motions sent directly to chambers. You are not going to find that in the rules of procedure. The scheduling order or notice of assignment should have information regarding courtesy copies and the proper format.

Some judges want paper copies mailed, some want copies faxed. Many judges now want electronic versions in a specified format.

Get the easy things right

Screwing up these minor details might not lose the case, but they can create the wrong impression with the court. These issues are easy to get right—so be sure to follow instructions!


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