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Civil Litigators… In the Beginning… Continued

New lawyers are equipped with legal research and writing skill. The question becomes, however, how does that translate into writing the memoranda or other document in the real life world of advocacy? Something like an offer of proof for court, a brief in the discovery process, or certainly a demand letter to a tortfeasor’s insurer can require different skills than writing formal legal papers in a classroom. The classroom requires much more focus on case law. Perhaps the difference between the two realms is not so much a difference in style, but a difference in emphasis. The “real world” setting requires focus on case law, but as judges will tell you, as between case law and facts, facts are the far more important. One of the biggest exponents of that notion is the very respected Judge William Young of the United States District Court in Massachusetts. In law school, facts tend not to be the focus because the teaching method has for a hundred years relied on teaching law by appellate cases.

There is an old legal joke that goes something like: “If the facts are on your side, argue the facts; if the law is on your side, argue the law; and if neither is on your side, argue.” I do not want to contribute to cynicism towards a profession I greatly admire and enjoy. I will simply add to that joke, never forget the facts.

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