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How to Ruin Your Briefs – Or The Screwtape Lawyers, by Austin J. Hakes, 50 Mich. B. J. (Aug. 2016)


The author has a well-known new client with an unusual request – write the worst briefs possible. The author offers eight rules to as guidelines to fulfill his client’s wish. This will be interesting! And, because it comes from the Michigan Bar Journal’s Plain English Committee, you know it’s going to be good. -CCE

That’s right— he wants us to write terrible briefs. This surprised me too at first, but then he explained his new litigation strategy: suspecting that it might be more effective to ruin judicial minds than to manipulate them in his favor, he wants to use terrible writing to drive appellate judges totally insane. Writing a bad brief is easy enough, but writing a truly disastrous one—one capable of inducing madness—is a task requiring deliberate effort and careful study. Our greatest challenge may be a lack of helpful reference materials, for although there are several good books on the art of writing well, the craft of writing badly has been suppressed and maligned for far too long. In the hope of invigorating the persecuted art of infuriating prose, I offer this letter. It’s a meager beginning, but if you follow these eight rules to the best of your ability, your writing should be sufficiently misguided and maddening to serve our client well.