The Changing Craft of the Appellate Brief

Ben Kerschberg, wrote yesterday about his experience as a paralegal in the mid-90s in the appellate litigation section of Sidley Austin. More particularly, he wrote about the process of getting briefs ready to file in the United States Supreme Court in the pre-pdf era. True, the technology has now developed to the extent that it is possible to produce professional qualify printed documents from a desktop computer and printer. Indeed, a book like Typography for Lawyers wouldn’t have even been relevant to the appellate bar a decade ago. Many of the concepts in a book such as that would have been lost on almost everyone except graphic artists and printers.

But, in Mr. Kerschberg’s account of going to a professional printer and preparing appellate briefs for filing (granted, a US Supreme Court appellate practice is unlike any other appellate practice), I can’t help but wonder if the improvements in technology haven’t taken some of the craft out of being an appellate lawyer. We’re now wearing the hat of professional printer and lawyer. And we weren’t necessarily trained to be printers.

Take a look at his blog post and see if you don’t start feeling nostalgic for a time in history that really wasn’t all that long ago (during the Clinton administration, to give you a sense of how recent it was). My takeaway from it is that every brief, even and perhaps especially today, should be crafted and not merely written.

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