Last year, the building across the street from Cockle Legal Briefs underwent a major renovation. They threw up a big chain-link fence around the site, and hung out a sign that read:
Our proofreaders took it hard. Some began a heated debate; one faction insisting that the intent of the sign-maker is clear and trespassers are barred, while the other side championed a literalist approach, declaring that trespassers are immune from criminal sanction. One poor woman just stared, tears streaming down her pale face—we found her that night dressed in a ninja outfit, holding an over-sized Sharpie, and, as the ambulance pulled away she sobbed, “Punctuation! Please, somebody, insert some punctuation!”
Now, proofreaders are indeed sensitive and odd, but that doesn’t make them wrong. Just the smallest error in a written document—especially a legal document—can result in confusion and unintended meanings. Here are three reasons you should let Cockle Legal Briefs proofread your Supreme Court brief:
Everyone Makes Mistakes. Everyone.
A Supreme Court brief drafter faces a daunting task. You must review all of the relevant elements of the case, research the applicable law, develop a coherent theory that relates the facts to the law, reduce the theory down to a succinct, persuasive narrative, and finally, type it. In that process, errors of form, grammar, spelling and consistency are bound to creep in. We have never seen a proof that did not have at least one note for the drafter to review, and a typical draft has notes on every page.
The drafting process itself is often to blame. Pasting passages from other sources, and combining the efforts of different brief authors and editors can result in inconsistent styles of citation, abbreviation, and so forth. Our readers will compare the elements of the entire brief, and note any inconsistencies for you to address and have us correct.
Filing a brief in the U.S. Supreme Court is a big deal. If this is your first brief, or your fortieth, you need to be sure that the pages you send to the Court, to counsel, and to your client present both your argument and yourself in the most favorable light. While your brief may not go so far as to inadvertently absolve trespassers from liability, the impression left by drafting errors can overwhelm the textual message you intend for the reader.
Petitioners should be especially sensitive to the need for proofreading. When the Court evaluates a petition for writ of certiorari, the justices must balance many considerations. Yes, they are looking for a legal controversy that warrants the granting of a writ, but they are also looking for a litigant who will be able to thoroughly and professionally present the issues at the merits stage. It is not enough for your argument to convince the Court that you have the right case to resolve the question presented; the overall appearance of your brief must also convince the Court that you are the right petitioner to adequately address the matter on the merits.
Professional Proofreading Is The Gold Standard.
So, you finish the draft, read it, and re-read it. Again. You have your secretary read it. And your partner. Also the summer law clerk. And your mother. Surprisingly, they caught a few mistakes you didn’t see. But surely, your draft has been read by enough smart people, and your brief is now perfect. Right?
Professional proofreaders may not be quite as odd as described, above. But they are very special. They read text differently than the rest of us. They see things. Try our Proofreading Test. Then ask yourself if your brief wouldn’t benefit from having Cockle proofreaders go over the draft. It’s the only way to be sure your filing will make the best possible impression on the Court.