Point Made is a unique and useful legal writing book. Though its main topic is brief writing, the book is not geared exclusively to the appellate lawyer. Trial lawyers and practitioners of all types will benefit from its collection of wisdom.
This is not your ordinary legal writing book: it does not resemble a law school textbook. In Point Made, Ross Guberman attempts to answer the question—how do the nation’s top legal advocates approach legal writing? The book is replete with excerpts from the best legal writing, and reveals the techniques top advocates use to get their message across.
Have you ever wondered how Thurgood Marshall approached Brown v. Board of Education? Point Made includes excerpts of Marshall’s brilliant and easy to understand legal prose. Point Made contains excerpts of the written work from such top advocates as: Bob Bennett, Paul Clement, Alan Dershowitz, Patrick Fitzgerald, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Eric Holder, Justice Elena Kagan, Larry Lessig, Bernie Nussbaum, President Barack Obama, Chief Justice John Roberts, and Larry Tribe—just to name a few.
It will be an unusual attorney whose writing does not improve after reading this book. There are two approaches to using Point Made. The first is to read the book from cover to cover. The second approach, though, is what makes the book unique: use the book when you encounter a specific legal writing problem by referring to the index. The index divides the book into specific areas—The Theme, The Tale, The Meat, The Words, and The Close. Having trouble approaching your statement of facts? Go to the index and look for the most fitting topic under The Tale. Struggling with how to distinguish the authorities cited by your opponent? Review the techniques under the heading “Distinguishing” such as the one entitled “Not So Fast: Show that the case doesn’t apply as broadly as your opponent suggests.”
During the time I was reading Point Made, I was struggling with an appellate reply brief that was coming due. After reading the section entitled “Brass Tacks: Explain “who, what, when, where, why, how,”” I was able to draft an effective introduction section to the brief, which made my argument much clearer. Even if you don’t want to read through the entire book, you should have Point Made in your library for those times when you run into trouble, or need a fresh approach to a writing problem.
I found about every section of Point Made to be useful. One of the most interesting chapters is entitled “Wish I Were There: Start each paragraph by answering a question you expect the court to have.” Guberman posits that the best advocates “sense that judges have predictable questions” such as: What is the standard? How does it apply? Has any other court done what you’re asking us to do? What about the other side’s points? and What’s the bottom line? Through examples of high caliber writing, Guberman demonstrates that effective legal writing answers these questions using clear, comprehensible prose.
The message of Point Made is that good legal writing must strive to make clear our often-complex legal arguments. Guberman quotes former Colorado Court of Appeals Judge Robert Kapelke, who stated that “if neither you nor anyone you know would ever utter a sentence like the one you have written, head back to the drawing board.” Lawyers have an unfortunate reputation for writing “legalese.” Point Made offers enlightenment.
**This review was published in the May 2012 edition of the Criminal Law Section E-Bulletin