42 Million Words
Judge Kozinski estimated that the “average case has three briefs, so that’s close to 40,000 words in every case, and we get 35-40 of those cases a month.” My math tells me that that comes to almost 20,000,000 words a year. (The article estimated 42,000,000.) The average hardback book published in New York runs about 100,000 words, so the average federal appeals judge has to read at least 200 “books” a year.
But the “books” are not written by professional writers edited exhaustively by professional editors. They’re written by harried lawyers with myriad cases and clients demanding their time. Judge Kozinski observed that too many lawyers “leave the writing of the brief till the last minute . . . . and don’t leave themselves time to go back and cut and polish and winnow the arguments.” Even if that describes you, in a few minutes—at the last minute—WordRake can help you “cut and polish.
Although many individual federal and state judges and clerks use WordRake to help them draft memoranda, orders, and opinions, whole federal courts in Washington and Florida have integrated the WordRake editing software. Recently, one of the three biggest law firms in the world bought 2,500 WordRake licenses. Big firms and federal courts don’t commit to software unless they know it’s a sound investment.
The Times article addresses the new word limit only in federal appellate courts, but local and trial courts all over the country are imposing similar restrictions. Last month, the King County Superior Court (trial courts in Seattle) posted a new rule, that pleadings and motions would now have a word limit instead of a page limit.
In the list serve discussion that followed, a colleague wrote:
WordRake will not make your case less complex; it will help you make your brief more clear and succinct. A sample real-time edit from WordRake.
The effect of the amendment was to increase The amendment increased, by over $400,000, the amount of amusement tax that Sunnyvale would need to must collect and remit to the Borough on an annual basis annually.
A Tip (I’ve Taught to Litigators and Appellate Lawyers for 28 Years)
Judges can lift a brief and tell you exactly its number of pages. Purposely write your brief to come in about 20% under that weight. If it feels lighter than the limit, the judge turns to page one, feeling good about the lawyer who wrote it. Judge Kozinski: “If it’s important, and you want to win, the best way to do it is to write a short brief.”
More Tips (A Bonus Just for Sticking with Me This Long)
Never Confuse a Fact with a Relevant Fact – facts suggest issues; when we include irrelevant facts, we suggest irrelevant issues; that confuses judges.
Never include a Name, a Date, or a Number Unless It’s Important – names, dates, and numbers carry the aura of importance, so judges try to keep track of them; if they’re not important, judges still try to keep track of them, because they don’t know; that also confuses them.
WordRake starts your editing process. It will spot dull and unnecessary words you are too close to notice, too tired to see, or don’t know to look for. It will give you an accurate edit 95% of the time. But even if it changes the meaning—we’re dealing with almost 200,000 words and their permutations—you will often see its intent and make the edit yourself. You and WordRake will work well together.
WordRake will not write the brief for you. But it will “rake” what you have written and quickly show you ways to make it clearer and more succinct. And help you meet word limits.