Whether you’re starting a new law firm or looking to enhance your litigation practice, taking the time and effort to create a repository of briefs, motions, and complaints you can use as templates on a moment’s notice will improve your profitability and save valuable time that you can invest in business development or providing actual legal advice.
In this article, we’ll cover the basics of building your own brief library, from tips on finding the best available documents to developing winning strategies to stay one step ahead of opposing counsel in litigation.
Building Your Brief Library
When building your brief library, it’s best to start with a defined scope. For example, it’s important to start by articulating what practice area(s) you fit into, what case type(s) you’re focusing on within your practice area(s), and whether there are other profitable areas ripe with litigation for your practice’s expansion. Once you know the practice areas and case types for which you want to build libraries, it’s time to start looking for leading litigators in that field.
Beyond searching for briefs from lawyers featured prominently on billboards around town or those appearing on Google’s first page of results, you can use legal analytics to decide which lawyers handle what volume of cases in your area. While not always an indicator of legal acumen, lawyers in your area with vast case volumes will likely have developed templated filings to handle their massive caseloads.
When you’ve identified lawyers and law firms whose work you’d like to explore in more detail, you then need to find their writing. You can, of course, head down to the courthouse and dive into the file archives. This method works really well if you’re only investigating a lawyer or two and a particular template or two. If, however, you plan to research and gather many court documents, or a single type from many authors, finding a low-cost court records database will be incredibly useful.
In the interest of full disclosure, I run a company that does such a thing. But let me be clear: you can absolutely build out a brief library without fancy technology. It takes some hustle, but you can do it.
If, on the other hand, you’ve decided you need to grow your library quickly—or dramatically increase its depth—using software with excellent attorney name and case-type search options, a PACER interface, and quick document downloads are key. After all, your goal in creating a brief library is to save you time in the end. If you’re trying to do it at scale, try to avoid wasting otherwise-billable hours sifting through court data to uncover the right attorney’s authorship.
Playing 3D Chess
Once you’ve mastered the process of finding the best briefs and motions from leaders in your field, you can easily replicate this process when you have a case and see a new or unknown advocate on the other side. Take a step beyond building a brief library. Why not extract docket history from several of your new opposing counsel’s past cases to develop a timeline showing how she’ll likely handle this one?
You’ll be two steps ahead. Knowing your opponent’s strategy in advance helps you plan for things likely to occur during your case. You’ll prepare accordingly to avoid surprises, while the likelihood of needing to create a last-minute filings plummets. Sharing the roadmap you’ve created with your clients is client-centered service at its best, helping to allay their anxieties, increase their appreciation for why litigation can become so expensive and time-consuming, and perhaps even impress them a bit along the way.
You don’t need to keep up with the Jones Days when you’re building a brief library. But with legal tech and legal analytics, you can stay ahead of the game and build your brand.