This month's California Lawyer has an article (subscription) by legal writing specialist Clyde Leland on brief-writing mistakes commonly made by new attorneys. The article concludes: "The good news is that lawyers' writing gets better with practice. The key is to remember your audience and your goals: Write so that readers too busy to read everything you wrote will understand what the problem is and how the law applies to address that problem." I had the pleasure of working with Clyde Leland once. In 1999, I helped him present an MCLE program called "Persuasive Statements of Fact" for the Bar Association of San Francisco, Appellate Practice Section. In fact, you can still order the video of that program from BASF.
And while we're on the subject of brief writing, last Monday's Daily Journal had a focus column, "Once More Into the Brief" (subscription) by Robert D. "Bo" Links. A snippet: "The foremost principle of writing briefs is right in front of you: be brief. .... To be sure, a significant case will probably require a significant effort. But to be effective, every advocate should follow the command that applies to every speaker: be brilliant, be brief, and be seated."