Guest Blogger: Joe Aronds is assistant vice president and assistant general counsel at Hartz Mountain Industries, Inc. In New Jersey, Joe is the president of the New Jersey Corporate Counsel Association (NJCCA) and writer and illustrator of a monthly law-related cartoon, Overruled!
At the inception of my career, it was drummed into me by the senior partners of the law firm that a brief’s opening pages are the most important. If they do not capture the judge’s interest and attention, the matter is likely to be hopelessly lost. A commercial case involving dozens of witnesses, millions of documents, and a boatload of complex legal issues must be summarized in an eye-catching and engaging manner in just two or three pages, or years of work on the case may be for naught. Lawyers are asked to write as journalists do: using the inverted pyramid of information. The most compelling information is always in the lead.
This is why I have always found writing the Preliminary Statement, or Introduction, to a brief to be the most difficult part of the entire undertaking. Reciting the facts is easy, but the opening is a completely different animal. It requires a high degree of creativity. A rather humdrum case has to be turned into an exciting page-turner that will compel the judge or law clerk to want to continue reading. This is not as easy as it might seem.
I am, by nature, a somewhat creative person. For the past four years, I have written and illustrated a cartoon, Overruled!, for the monthly online newsletter of the New Jersey Corporate Counsel Association (NJCCA). Regarding the creative process, I have learned that inspiration cannot be willed into existence through rational thought; rather, it is something that arrives unexpectedly without notice at any time of day or night. No idea has ever come to me by thinking about what I might want to put on paper.
In the same way that I am never able to think of an idea for Overruled! — waiting instead for the idea to emerge from the ether –– so it is with the introductory section of a brief. As a result, I always write the facts and legal argument sections of briefs first, and leave the creative section — the introduction — for last. I have to wait for the creative inspiration to strike, or it just does not work. (Of course, this can be a problem when deadlines are involved!)
The legal profession, including the in-house bar, abounds with creative individuals. This does not always seem apparent. Many of us go about our day-to-day working lives without making anyone aware of the interesting creative endeavors that we engage in during our spare time. I realized this a few years ago when the NJCCA published monthly profiles of its officers and board members. I was surprised by the many interesting projects that these colleagues were engaged in — something that I had never expected, having only known them in a professional capacity through corporate counsel meetings and functions.
If you would like to share something about yourself, or if you know of someone who you believe would make a good candidate for a profile in a future installment of this blog, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Check out an installment of Overruled! which has been one of Joe’s most popular.