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Write Better Appellate Briefs: Templates and How-To’s

September 20, 2011


  1. Ten Brief Writing Misconceptions and How to Fix Them   [Added 23 Sep 2011)
    There is an art to writing effective briefs, and each brief is different. But many ineffective briefs contain the same mistakes, regardless of the brief’s subject matter or the brief’s intended judicial audience
  2. Barger:  Persuasive Strategies for Appellate Brief Writing
    You will never get a court to agree with you if you don't know what you want or how to get there. Don't fight against the court's natural reluctance to decide a case too broadly. Present the case, and your supporting authorities, with calm and quiet assurance.
  3. How to Write A Good Appellate Brief
    The function of a reply brief is to respond to an adversary's arguements.  The court can look back to your opening brief as a reminder of the overall structure to answer nagging questions.
  4. How to Brief An Appellate Case
    An appellate brief is a written legal argument presented to an appellate court. Its purpose is to persuade the higher court to uphold or reverse the trial court’s decision. Briefs of this kind are therefore geared to presenting the issues involved in the case from the perspective of one side only.
  5. Ten Requirements of Writing Effective Appellate Briefs
    The court has to feel good about ruling in favor of your client.  Judge Gurfein
    (2nd Cir.): “It is still the mystery of the appellate process that a result is reached in an opinion on thoroughly logical and precedential grounds while it was first approached as the right and fair thing to do.”
  6. Effective Appellate Brief Writing
    Successful communication requires the communicator to understand how much the person or persons to whom he is communicating understands. If the communication takes the form of an appellate brief, the writer must understand the limits of understanding of the appellate judges, along with the concerns of the judges


  1. Index of Sample Briefs (10 Oct 2011)
    7th Circuit Court of Appeals Sample Briefs--Appellant, Appellee, Appellant Reply and Anders Briefs
  2. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Brief Checklist (10 Oct 2011)
  3. Supreme Court Briefs
  4. Montana Brief Writing Guide (With Sample Brief)
    The brief needs to treat the Court as a potential ally to be won over by effective persuasion. The Court is interested in seeing that justice is done and law correctly applied. Briefs should never take a tone that implies that the Court is one's opposition. The Attorney team must never lie or distort the facts of the case, but rather is to present the client's case in the best possible light, and suggest that the action requested is not only consistent with past legal precedent, but is also just and consistent with the rule of law.
  5. Sample Appellate Brief



  1. US Courts Official Forms and Template Downloads
    Official Forms:
    The appellate rules forms are officially published in an Appendix of Forms accompanying the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure.
  2. Word-Processing Templates: For user convenience, the Administrative Office Forms Working Group of judges and clerks has recommended making available to the public the unofficial WordPerfect and Word-compatible rtf versions linked below. Given their nature, language in these forms may require modification before the document can be filed with the court. Red font is used to draw attention to these instances. Instructions are enclosed in angle brackets, and alternative phrases appear in square brackets. These forms are therefore offered as templates based on the official published forms, but are not identical to them.
  3. Writing Legal Briefs with OpenOffice Templates (A free program available for all platforms that acts/looks just like Office)
    Templates can also prevent major mistakes. For example, when many lawyers write a brief, they will typically cut and past the caption and other formatting elements into a new document. Then they will change the case names, numbers, etc. This is dangerous. There will always be a risk, no matter how careful you are, that you will forget to change something from the previous brief.
  4. Ohio Template/Instructions
    This is where the rubber meets the road, where battle is joined, where [insert your favorite cliché].  At this point, the procedures mostly fade away and substance takes over.  The appellate rules specify what you need in terms of table of contents, font size, margins, etc., and each district adds its own gloss.  But the bottom line is that this is where you make your substantive arguments.
  5. Sample Brief Formats (3)
    The first sample* format is for an appellant’s brief in a criminal case. It also includes a sample format for a certificate of compliance, record excerpts and a forwarding letter to this office. Please note that this sample format is arranged as required by Fed. R. App. P. 28(a) and 5th Cir. R. 28.3. To download the WordPerfect version of the first sample, click here.

    The second format* is more generic and may be used as a guideline for both an appellant’s and an appellee’s brief.


  1. General Requests and Suggestions for Typography in Briefs (PDF) (10 OCT 2011)



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