In Personam: Cut Down Your Issues and Arguments Cut Down Your Issues and Arguments | In Personam

In Personam

by Wan Zafran Pawancheek
Published April 30, 2015

Cut Down Your Issues and Arguments

Issues and arguments are at their best if they can be immediately understood.

Most cases (no matter how complex) have only two to four decisive points. Cut down your issues/arguments to meet those points.

This is actually difficult to do – it’s harder to reduce arguments than to expand them.

But to argue cases properly, you must reduce your arguments to their bare essence, as:

  1. Long arguments tend to confuse. Especially once the documents, questions and objections start flying. If you don’t cut down your issues, you might depart from your pleadings, or be tempted to.

  2. Cases are all about governing syllogisms. The facts of a case will lead to certain applicable legal premises. These premises are usually sharp and pithy. Lengthy exposition upon them merely clouds what is already clear, which is unproductive.

  3. All cases/claims, no matter how strong, have holes in them. These holes can be used to defeat or mitigate claims. (And if you disagree, consider why we have thick tomes called precedents of pleadings that are filled with potential defences.) Consider thus:

    1. Litigants don’t always have the best interests of their opponents at heart; some will raise fault at any small issue.

    2. Long arguments tend to expose faults or create opportunities for blame where none lies.

    3. If you keep your arguments short and concise, they will likely be met only on those fronts; this is best.

Also, a good reminder on a direct writing style, from William Strunk’s The Elements of Style:

Omit needless words.

Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.