Appellate Advocacy: Testing—and Mostly Rejecting—the Folk Wisdom of the Effective Appellate Brief

A great deal of folk wisdom surrounds the characteristics of a successful appellate brief. It is said that shorter briefs and fewer issues lead to greater appellate success. One of the “gurus” of legal writing recommended that issue statements not exceed 75 words. Some claim that simple, short arguments are more effective than longer ones. Many attorneys believe that an appellant who files a reply brief will be more successful than an appellant who does not. Several hypotheses arising from all this advice have been tested. The results call into question most of the folk wisdom.