Monday, January 28, 2013

Civility in motion practice

I recently had occasion to review a seminar presentation that I gave ten years ago.  The topic was ethics in appellate and summary judgment practice.  The audience (which consisted of Tulsa lawyers) was active with questions and comments during the presentation.  One of the attendees (whose identity is lost to passage of time) pointed out that most judges who make continuing education presentations remark that attacks on the other side can destroy the advocate's credibility. In response, I noted:
I’ve certainly seen that to be the case....  I ... find that I ... have more success ... if I describe the case in the least amount of argumentative terms as possible.
I went on to suggest that factual statements should be presented with minimal argument.  But I quickly pointed out that the ordering and presentation of facts is, in and of itself, argument -- that is, you are telling a story when you outline your facts in a motion.

Motion writing is best done in a storytelling manner.  The attorney's job is to educate the court and persuade that the facts warrant a resolution of the case in one direction or the other.  This can be accomplished by telling the story, "very orderly and very methodically and very almost sterilely setting forth the argument and the facts ...."

Ten years later, I remain convinced that the best advocates can persuade without attacks, simply by telling the story of their case.