13 Tips To Writing Better Legal Briefs, Opinions, And Letters

Writing legal briefs, opinions, and letters is one of the most important parts of being a lawyer. If you can’t write well in this area, then you probably won’t get hired as a lawyer. 

Moreover, writing briefs and opinions is something that will happen over and over again throughout your career as a lawyer. 

For this reason, it’s important to spend some time making sure that you’re writing these documents with the best possible grammar and structure so that they will be effective! In this post, we’ll cover 43 tips for how to write better briefs and opinions for your next case or law school assignment.

5 Tips for Better Legal Letter Writing – YouTube
Key Takeaways
1. Enhance clarity through concise language.
2. Craft persuasive arguments with strong reasoning.
3. Use headings to structure and guide the reader.
4. Proofread meticulously to eliminate errors.
5. Maintain a professional and respectful tone.
6. Tailor your writing style to your audience.
7. Provide clear summaries of legal precedents.
8. Address counterarguments effectively.
9. Organize information for easy comprehension.
10. Use active voice for greater impact.
11. Include relevant examples and case references.
12. Pay attention to formatting and citation standards.
13. Continuously improve through practice and feedback.

Be Inspired By Great Legal Writers

The best way to improve your legal writing is to read great legal writing. Even if you don’t aspire to write like these writers, studying their work will give you insight into how they approach the craft and help you learn from their successes and failures.

In this section of the guide, we’ll take a look at some of the greatest writers in all fields from politics and law to science, technology, business, and art, and discuss how their styles can be applied to legal writing.

Building strong contracts is crucial in the legal field. Learn how to enhance your contract writing skills with our guide on writing better contracts, designed to help lawyers create effective and comprehensive legal agreements.

Make A Point Early On, And Make It Quickly

Don’t waste time with long introductions. You don’t need to tell the reader how you came to write your opinion or brief or letter; just get right to the point.

Avoid long conclusions. You don’t have to summarize what you’ve said in your opinion or brief; just leave it there as written and let them read through it themselves if they want more information.

Avoid long paragraphs. Just keep things short and sweet; no one wants to read several pages of text at once! This also means avoiding run-on sentences: break them up into smaller ones whenever possible (more on this below).

Avoid long sentences even though this may seem counterintuitive when we’re trying not only for brevity but also for sentence variety. 

it’s easier for readers when sentences are short rather than longer ones because each sentence has its topic sentence which makes it clear what everything relates to so people don’t get confused about where every little thing fits into context! 

This will also help prevent rambling off-topic thoughts from being included within one piece of writing because if everything stays focused on one central objective then there will be less room left over which might otherwise be filled with irrelevant material.

Don’t Just Write. Read What You’ve Written

Read your work out loud.

If you are writing something important, like a brief or an opinion, you should read it out loud to yourself as well. You should also ask someone else to read it for you preferably someone who is not familiar with the subject matter and will tell you if they do not understand what you are trying to say or how your argument is being made. 

If possible, record yourself reading the document and listen to it later so that you can hear how silly some of the words sound when they come out of your mouth (at least in my case). 

Reading aloud even once can also be helpful because it allows me time between the drafting and editing phases during which I have time to sit back and think about whether any changes need making before I make them.

  • This one has worked wonders for me!

Avoiding common legal writing mistakes is key to delivering polished documents. Discover the top pitfalls and their solutions in our article about 15 most common legal writing mistakes to ensure your work is clear and accurate.

Choose Your Words Carefully

The most important element of any good legal writing is the choice of words. If you are writing a brief, opinion or letter, choose the right word. Avoid jargon and pompous language. Use simple, direct language. You can do this by using short sentences and short paragraphs as well as active voice over passive voice whenever possible.

You should also avoid foreign phrases and words which may be confusing to your reader–even if they seem like common terms to you! It’s better to be completely clear than having someone question what you’re saying because they don’t understand what the heck you’re talking about!

Express Your Writing In Plain Language

Express your writing in plain language.

Use simple, direct sentences. Avoid jargon and pompous language. Be clear and precise. If you can avoid a wordy phrase or sentence, do so. 

Write in active voice as much as possible; this means that you should use the subject of the sentence as the subject of your action verb (“The client requested that we file this brief”). Likewise, don’t be afraid to use contractions such as “don’t” or “we’re”.

Shorten your words and sentences! Sentences should generally be between 12-18 words long on average (the maximum being 20) with no more than 3 complex clauses per sentence (subject+verb+object). 

Many legal professionals use Microsoft Word’s grammar checking feature for help with this task; if nothing else, pay close attention to your word count when editing so that you do not go over too much (too little space between paragraphs is a good indication that there may be too many commas in one place).

Effectively expressing dissatisfaction through complaint letters requires finesse. Dive into our insights on writing an effective complaint letter to master the art of addressing concerns professionally and persuasively.

Write With An Air Of Authority

First-person singular is best. Use it whenever you can but don’t go overboard. Your writing will sound less authoritative when it becomes a stream of “I”s, “me”s, and “myself.” And let’s face it: nobody wants to read about your personal life at work!

In general, active voice is better than passive voice in legal briefs because it makes the sentences shorter and more direct (and who doesn’t love short and direct?). 

Active voice also helps avoid confusion between subject and object by clearly stating who did what: “The defendant hit the plaintiff” instead of “The plaintiff was hit by the defendant.

And finally, many law schools teach that an active voice is required in legal writing; though this rule may not be true anymore (see below), you might want to stick with active so as not to confuse your professors or editors later on down the road when they catch onto this new trend.

Avoid Jargon, Pompous Language, And Foreign Phrases

Writing is an essential skill for any lawyer to master. It makes your work easier to read and understand, it will make you look more professional, and it can even win you more business! 

The first step in writing is avoiding complex terminology that may be unfamiliar to your audience. If a reader doesn’t understand what you’re saying, they won’t be able to appreciate the quality of your work or be persuaded by it which means no one wins! 

To write effectively, use plain language that is familiar to the reader; avoid using idioms or jokes that only lawyers would get; avoid jargon like “the Court,” “the Plaintiff,” and “the Defendant” (these might not always be clear).

Instead, say who has filed against whom; avoid using vague terms like “it’s my understanding” (what do they think they know?); write out numbers instead of using numerals (for example four thousand five hundred dollars).

Remember that a brief is a brief, not an amicus curiae brief.

While it is important to understand the facts of the case, don’t use your brief to tell a story. Remember that you are writing for a court, not for a general audience. 

Your reader will be able to find such information elsewhere in the record or by reading other briefs filed on behalf of various parties. The purpose of your brief is not to give a detailed account of what happened; rather, it should provide analysis and argument based on those facts.

Remember that briefs are not amicus curiae briefs: they do not take on an advocate’s role and argue on behalf of someone else (e.g., another party). They are limited in scope and focus; their aim is advocacy within the framework established by their authors’ employers. 

For example, if you write for an insurance company defending against allegations made by its insured under policies issued by them, then your brief should address those allegations directly not make arguments that could apply more generally across all policies issued by other insurers as well as yours. 

Otherwise, you risk blurring lines between advocacy within your organization’s interests and broader public interest concerns outside those interests which would undermine credibility with judges who have no stake in such issues being addressed at all!

Take your legal writing skills to the next level with our comprehensive resource, The Ultimate Legal Writing Handbook. This guide offers in-depth strategies, techniques, and advice for crafting compelling legal documents.

Mention The Name Of The Court At The Beginning Of The Brief Or Opinion

At the beginning of your brief or opinion, you should mention the name of the court. You should boldface this as it is important information. The font size should be large enough to be readable but not too large to detract from other elements in your brief or opinion.

The name of the court should be all capitalized and followed by a colon, then followed by a comma, then followed by the case name. Please note that there are no spaces between “United States Court of Appeals” or “Supreme Court” and “of Appeals” or “of Supreme Court.” The period is placed after the case name

Boldface The Name Of The Court In The Caption Of Your Document

Boldface the name of the court in your brief or opinion. This is a basic rule of formatting, but you’d be amazed at how many lawyers get it wrong. The first time you use any court’s name, whether it’s a federal district court or an appellate circuit, boldface it (and capitalize). 

If you’re writing a case brief for that court and want to identify which specific district court it is, italicize (and lowercase) the name. In some cases, if you’re writing about an appeals decision from another jurisdiction or quoting from one, you may need to italicize both words: “the 6th Circuit Court.”

Boldface the name of the court on your title page: “United States District Court for Eastern District of Kentucky.”

Mastering the art of expert legal writing involves both appearance and substance. Explore the traits of proficient legal writing in our article about the look and sound of expert legal writing, and elevate your written legal communication to new heights.

Make Sure You Understand What You’re Writing About Before You Start To Write It Down

  • Read the case. If you don’t know exactly what the issue is and why it’s being heard, you might as well not bother writing anything at all!
  • Read the briefs. Every other document filed by the parties in a case will have something to add to its understanding of what happened, how it happened, or why it matters.
  • Read statutes and regulations. If there are statutes or rules involved in your case (which there always are), make sure you’ve got a good handle on them before sitting down to write your brief or memo.

Read precedents from this court or other courts with jurisdiction over this matter so they can guide your thinking on applying legal doctrines here.* Read treatises that discuss relevant areas of law so you have some idea of what others have said about them.

Look up articles written by experts who study these kinds of problems; see if their views help inform yours.* Look at blogs written by people who work in this area because they may provide insight into current events affecting practice here.

Look over textbooks published by respected publishers which cover this area–they often provide good background information on subjects like constitutional law, administrative law, and criminal procedure.

Omit Needless Words

A legal brief is not a novel. It’s not even a short story; it’s a detailed, tightly-written piece of writing that should be as concise as possible. That means you should omit needless words and phrases in your legal briefs by:

Omitting unnecessary words such as “that,” “it is important to note,” and “for example.” These can usually be replaced with stronger verbs like “shows,” “is indicative of,” or simply by using the word itself without the preposition (e.g., “showed a pattern of behavior throughout his career).

Omitting unneeded modifiers such as adjectives or adverbs (e.g., quite; extremely; very). Instead of writing “extremely good reasons,” write “good reasons.” Instead of writing “very significant impact on society,” write “significant impact on society.” 

These types of phrases add unnecessary length to your brief and make it appear clunky rather than concise and well-constructed.


The takeaway for lawyers should be that there’s no magic formula for writing good legal briefs, opinions, or letters. It’s a matter of taking the time to craft a well-thought-out document that addresses your client’s needs and conveys your thoughts clearly and straightforwardly. 

If you follow these tips, you’ll be well on your way to creating persuasive legal documents that will help win cases!

Further Reading

10 Tips from Legal Writing Experts: Gain insights from legal writing experts to enhance your writing skills and improve the effectiveness of your legal documents.

Legal Writing Tips for Lawyers: Explore practical tips tailored for lawyers to refine their legal writing techniques and produce more persuasive and impactful content.

12 Tips for Writing Better Fact Sections: Dive into valuable advice for improving the fact sections of legal documents, ensuring they are clear, concise, and compelling.


What are some key tips for enhancing legal writing skills?

Improving legal writing involves clarity, structure, and precision. Tips from experts can help you refine your skills and produce more effective legal documents.

How can lawyers write more persuasively in their legal documents?

Writing persuasively requires understanding your audience, using compelling arguments, and employing persuasive language that supports your case or argument.

What is the significance of a well-crafted fact section in legal writing?

A well-written fact section provides the foundation for the legal argument by presenting the relevant details and context of the case, making the overall document more coherent and convincing.

Where can I find additional resources for legal writing improvement?

Apart from the provided sources, there are numerous legal writing blogs, books, and workshops available to help lawyers further refine their writing skills and produce high-quality legal documents.

How can I effectively structure a legal document to convey my message?

Structuring a legal document involves organizing information logically, using headings and subheadings, and creating a clear and coherent flow of information that guides the reader through the content.