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Should a trial attorney attend an appellate seminar?

A fellow appellate blogger, Ray Ward, just wrote to tell me that I was featured as Inter Alia's "blawg of the day" at I noted I was listed as having 37 years of experience, which would mean I was giving legal advice at the age of 14! I can remember when I was sworn in at 24 and desperately hoped for a gray hair or two so that I might appear older to my clients. Now I am desperately trying to hide those gray hairs.

He also asked me to say a word or two about an upcoming two-day appellate seminar to be held in Orlando, Florida on February 28-29. In fact, his web site has a listing of the programs to be offered. You can check it out at I attended a program in San Francisco. Very informative and I met a lot of great people. If you can, I encourage you to go.

Remember when I described the differences between appellate and trial lawyers? Well, here's a point in case. I read the list of programs and got truly excited. Consider "Judicial Use of Legal Reasoning - Theory Versus Practice" or "How to Bring a Cold Paper Record to Life." So, if those subjects don't get your blood pumping, then you will know immediately why we are different creatures.

One was so intriguing that I had to read it.  Check out "Painting with Print" by Ruth Anne Robbins at   Now, I know that a lot of attorneys don't give a hoot about the physical appearance of their briefs but I happen to think this is a very important topic. I have always said that a brief should not only sound persuasive but it should look inviting. To me that means lots of white space and paragraphs, which I find very calming. Important information is contained in bite-sized paragraphs.

Then there are briefs that almost challenge the reader to find a place to break in. Ever see a paragraph that fills out the page from margin to margin and consists of a single paragraph? The page is announcing, "Just find a way to break in here.  I dare you!" Usually at that point I opt for some coffee and return to reading when I have more energy.

Ms. Robbins discusses legal documents in general. For instance, she notes that italics and underlining slow reading speed, while many readers prefer boldface for emphasis. And stop SCREAMING with CAPITALS! Of course, we could spend hours on whether to serif or not to serif but I think we are all agreed that no one (including those Wordperfect fans) should be using Courier. Fascinating to me and important because no judge will ever tell you that your choice of fonts made his or her eyes too tired to continue reading!

Reader Comments (3)

Thanks for plugging the seminar. If anyone wants to bypass my blog post and sign up on line, they can go to

January 25, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterRay Ward

San Francisco Medical Malpractice Attorney

I enjoyed reading your blog. What a great thing it is to be able to share information like this on the Internet.

Very Interesting post !

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