You finally finished drafting the argument section of your brief; you are mentally spent. So for the conclusion you copy and paste: “For the foregoing reasons, Defendant asks this Court to grant its motion.” Yes, it feels a little anticlimactic and abrupt, but at least the brief is done. Perhaps you think that judges aren’t paying attention by the end anyway.
But the next time you are tempted to end your brief this way, consider that Bryan Garner, in Legal Writing in Plain English, called this type of conclusion “a formulaic cop-out that says nothing.” Yikes.
Writing a strong conclusion that actually says something can be hard work. But here are some tips to get you started on ending strongly:
1. State the relief that you are seeking from the judge. While the relief sought is obvious in motions for summary judgment, this tip can be critical in other types of motions. Don’t let the judge reach the end still wondering what ruling you want. Judge Gerald Lebovits discusses this tip in his article Persuasive Writing for Lawyers—Part I.
2. Repeat the theme of your brief, tying key facts and law together. Your brief should be telling a story. Incorporate parts of that story. Remind the judge why your client should prevail, both under the facts and the law. It may be easier to write after taking a break, then writing without referring back to the brief. Back away from the details to see the big picture.
3. Move the argument forward. Offer the judge something new in the conclusion. Is there anything else that could show the judge why it is fair to rule in your client’s favor? Fairness is not always an explicit factor in the legal argument, so use the conclusion to your advantage. Use the trick my highschool English teacher taught: imagine the judge reading your brief, and saying, “So what?” Answer that question in the conclusion. In The Winning Brief, Bryan Garner offers examples of conclusions in which the writer offers a different perspective on the arguments. Ross Guberman also provides examples of strong conclusions in Point Made.
The conclusion is one more chance to persuade the judge, so don’t waste it. Any other tips?