Further stoking our interest in continuing to do appellate advocacy is that we won Runner-Up Best Brief at the First Amendment Moot Court competition. It's a great honor we had to beat out 37 other teams for and a great validation of our efforts.
It's also nice to have some sort independent verification that we can write well. I take my writing very seriously (as does Mike, although he's not so serious about blogging…), and it's nice to have the affirmation that I actually can do it decently when I try.
Some things I think we did right in our brief included omitting any extraneous facts or arguments. Some briefs may have taken a more scattershot approach, throwing in any legal fact that may have seemed to lean in favor of the respondent's position. Whereas ours had two clear parts: one, that the prevailing case directly supported the respondent's position with a three-tiered explanation describing how, and two, that even if the Court for whatever reason chose to ignore precedent and choose an alternative approach, that the facts of this case would still support the respondent's position. (Admittedly, however, it may have been harder for those who had to argue for the petitioner to divide that argument so cleanly.) And we stayed focused on the bottom line: having the court affirm the lower court's decision. We didn't put anything in that wouldn't get the court to that point.
We also managed to temper the tone. It was really easy given the law in this area to go too "high-level" in our argument and end up writing a survey of the law instead of a persuasive document. To some extent we still had to write expositively, but we managed to rein it in and keep it tied to the argument. We also wrote the section headers so that if you read them straight through they would form a summary of the argument, and we did a decent job of proofreading the whole thing, since those stupid nits can undo you. I notice on re-reading that we apparently missed a Word-induced typo, but otherwise we did pretty well. Our Bluebooking is pretty good too.
Also, though it's not like I think this really had all that much to do with it, I'd made a kick-ass cover for the brief thanks to owning an install of Adobe Acrobat. I was able to find a cover page from a previous Best Brief and "updated" it so that it reflected the current case caption. Pretty clever…
Anyway, writing the brief was annoying and hard, but it's invigorating to know that we can do it well. It gives us a lot of confidence to go out and write them again.