abbreviations

dartboard pen on target inside straightFirst, an example; then, a rant.

Here’s the example: I attended a mediation. The mediator gave each side 20 minutes to make an opening presentation. After one advocate had spoken for 80 — you read that right: 80 — minutes, the mediator suggested that it was time for him to wrap up.

The guy flipped through his notes, said that he still had a lot of material to cover, and then offered: “To speed things up, I’ll just bullet-point my arguments.”

Before the “continue reading” icon, I’ll note the lessons to be learned from this tale that are not the subject of today’s rant. First: If you’re given 20 minutes to speak, speak for 20 minutes. Got that?

Second: If you’re given 20 minutes to speak, you drone on for 80 minutes, and the mediator then suggests that it’s time for you to wrap up, you may speak for about two more sentences. Then, it’s time to sit down. Got that?

Third, and the most valuable lesson — instructive, yet infused with a certain dry wit — . . . .

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Abbrev’s For Idio’s (Or, 3 Tips For Effective Communication)”

Petitioner’s brief, unfortunately, was laden with obscure acronyms notwithstanding the admonitions in our handbook (and on our website) to avoid uncommon acronyms. Since the brief was signed by a faculty member at Columbia Law School, that was rather dismaying both because of ignorance of our standards and because the practice constitutes lousy brief writing.

– Judge Laurence Silberman of the D.C. Circuit, condemning a brief for an abundance of acronyms.

(More information — including the identity of the offending professor, and the full opinion — after the jump.)

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On Tuesday, the D.C. Circuit benchslapped a gaggle of lawyers for filing briefs with excessive acronyms. The court’s per curiam order directed the parties to “submit briefs that eliminate uncommon acronyms used in their previously filed final briefs.”

Alas, attempts to comply with this order have raised a new problem — a problem that some readers saw a mile away….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “A Benchslap Postscript: Mo’ Words, Mo’ Problems”


The D.C. Circuit to counsel: readable briefs or GTFO. From an order filed today:

Who are the parties and their counsel? Additional information and the full order, after the jump.

(Also note the UPDATES — in defense of the lawyers, and floating a theory about the judge behind the benchslap — added to the end of this post.)

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Ed. note: This is the latest installment of Inside Straight, Above the Law’s column for in-house counsel, written by Mark Herrmann.

Quick! What short form will you use in your brief to identify your client, Porsche Cars of North America, Inc.?

If your guts are screaming “PCNA,” then your guts need reworking.

But I chose this example for my column today because I’ve seen this very thing happen. I’ve seen a lawyer (at a perfectly good firm) assign the short form “PCNA” to this entity.

What was he thinking?

If I’m at the steering wheel of the case, then we’re not representing PCNA.

Who do we represent?

We represent Porsche, for heaven’s sake. Porsche.

It’s a word. I understand it. It creates an image in my mind. It communicates with me quickly and compellingly. That’s (generally) good….

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