New Lawyer Column: Motion Buffet
By Scott L. Goldman
Ithought it would be intimidating to write my first motion. Fortunately, I was too scared to be intimidated. I had just been assigned to a complex federal case, which had been going on for years, and knew next to nothing about the esoteric subject matter about which I was going to write. Writing that motion was all-consuming. I thought about it at work, during dinner, and while playing Nintendo Wii with the kids. The motion even infiltrated my dreams. (I suppose if you are writing a motion in a dream, it should be characterized as a nightmare.) It was an arduous few days, but I got it done. The partners did not vote to hang it on the lobby wall. At the same time, no one mistook it for a practical joke. Most importantly, we won the motion.
Over the next six months on the case, I wrote or cowrote close to twenty more motions, oppositions, replies, and appellate briefs. During the eight-week trial, I sometimes wrote three motions a week and, at one point, had only several hours to start and finish a motion. The steady stream of briefs varied greatly, by type, format, length, and subject matter, which ranged from the main contentions in the case to more narrow, even peripheral, issues. I made it through the motion buffet, as I now call it. Like any buffet, it was exasperating, fascinating and, by the end, exhausting. I did not, of course, turn into a master legal writer in half a year, but I greatly improved, both in substance and efficiency. As I look back on it, I was able to implement some of my experience as a former film executive and take away several helpful lessons.