Sept. 15, 2021 – Are you proud of your briefs? Have you or a colleague written an exceptional appellate brief recently, or have you read a stellar brief?
Enter the State Bar of Wisconsin
Appellate Practice Section's Best Briefs Competition to identify and recognize outstanding appellate briefs. The section is hosting its fourth competition.
“This is for briefs filed in cases resolved between April 1, 2020, and Dec. 31, 2021,” said Joseph Diedrich, secretary of the Appellate Practice Section and chair of this year’s competition.
The deadline for submitting a brief is Jan. 31, 2022.
“Don’t be shy about nominating your own briefs or someone else’s,” said Shelley Fite, past section chair and creator of the competition. “There are great writers among our state’s appellate attorneys, in all practice areas.”
About the ‘Best Briefs’ Competition
Appeals are won or lost on the briefs – especially in the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, where generally there isn’t an oral argument. “We know how essential it is that appellate attorneys prepare briefs that are clear, readable, and persuasive in order to best represent our clients,” Fite said.
“The competition celebrates the art and craft of brief writing and showcases the writing of Wisconsin lawyers,” said Melissa Love Koenig, past chair of the Appellate Practice Section. “It provides good models of strong brief writing.”
What Does a Winning Brief Look Like?
An appellate brief is the key to success on appeal, and briefs are a lawyer’s first opportunity to present an argument to the judges. “An attorney will hardly ever overcome a bad brief with oral argument,” Love Koenig said.
The competition recognizes that appellate practice centers around brief-writing, and that appellate attorneys are always striving to improve their writing and argumentation skills.
So what does a winning brief look like?
Judges need to know precisely what relief is being sought – the issues must be framed properly, and arguments stated clearly and succinctly.
“Attorneys need to represent the facts and law truthfully, and present their arguments in a compelling manner,” Love Koenig said. “Reading a good brief is like reading a well-written article in a magazine: a reader should want to keep reading the brief.”
For examples, see past award-winning briefs in the
Dec. 16, 2016,
June 20, 2018, and
July 15, 2020, issues of
Nominating a Brief is Easy
Anyone can nominate a brief – the authors, colleagues, friends, judges, clerks, or other admirers of great legal writing. Nominations are anonymous, and you can submit as many as you want.
To nominate a brief,
visit the competition page on WisBar.org (you’ll need to log in first) and provide the basic information. You do not need to submit the briefs themselves – we will retrieve them after the submission deadline.
Eligible briefs can be those that are filed in state or federal courts. Keep in mind that qualifying briefs must be in cases resolved by Dec. 31, 2021.
“We won’t retrieve the briefs until Feb. 1, 2022, so please nominate that brief you’re thinking about, even if you don’t know whether the appeal will be resolved by Dec. 31, 2021,” Diedrich said. “If it’s resolved by the end of the year, it’ll be included in the competition. If not, we’ll reserve it for the next round.”
To qualify for the competition:
the primary author must be a State Bar member in good standing;
the brief must have been submitted to an appellate court, but it doesn't need to have been the winning brief; and
the appeal in which the brief was submitted must have been resolved between April 1, 2020, and Dec. 31, 2021 (but again, you can submit it before then if you think it might be resolved by Dec. 31).
The judging process:
the winning briefs are chosen anonymously by retired Wisconsin judges;
briefs are judged on clarity of writing, depth of analysis, and persuasiveness –
not on the apparent merits of any issue; and
the winning brief writers (and their firms or agencies) will be publicly recognized at an event in June 2022.