Cal. Litig. 2017, Volume 30, Number 2

Brief Basics: The Table Of Contents

By Joan Wolff

The purpose of a brief is to convince the court that given the facts and applicable law, your client should prevail. So how do you quickly get the court’s attention focused on the merits of your case?

Some judges and staff attorneys say that the first thing they read in a brief is the table of contents. The table of contents, then, is your first opportunity to inform the court about the case you are presenting, what is at stake, the key facts, what your client’s position is, and what kind of legal argument you will make. It is the first opportunity to convince the court that given the facts and law, your client’s position has merit. Once the court has read these first few pages of your brief, you are no longer on "neutral" ground—some opinion has started to be formed, based on what you put on those pages.

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