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The Value of a Good Introduction.

Posted By Cliff Tuttle | September 3, 2009

Posted by Cliff Tuttle (c) 2009

SUMMARY: Summaries of fact and even argument should be added as a formal introduction to many written communications, including legal pleadings.

If you read the immediately previous post about the complaint filed by the tobacco industry against government advertising regulation, you may have noticed something curious. The complaint contained an introduction.

In six fairly succinct paragraphs, the plaintiff tobacco companies presented their argument in summary format. But it was more than a mere summary. It was a mini-brief of their case, one that was intended to persuade or at least enlighten the reader.

We lawyers are accustomed to placing summaries at the head of appellate briefs, but why not complaints?

I discussed the subject with an experience trial lawyer last night, who objected that summaries are not provided for in the Rules of Civil Procedure. Perhaps not, but what is the judge going to do about it? Strike it as impertinent? Most likely, he/she will simply read it. And most likely, this compact statement of the lawyer’s case will make an impression. When filing an Answer, insert your own introduction. But make it to the point, brief and persuasive.

In some situations, such as motions or at an arbitration hearing, where the pleading is being hurriedly read, it gives you an important opportunity to communicate your theory of the case — the big picture. Note how the plaintiff tobacconeers were able to work in case citations, something that is not usually considered proper in pleadings. After reading just six paragraphs, we had the gist of a very complex case. Then, as we read the rest of the document, we are not preoccupied with trying to figure out where the argument is going. The plaintiffs have already laid out the path they intend to take. The reader’s understanding is greatly improved and misunderstanding greatly reduced.

Moreover, in light of the recent requirement that pleadings contain more than the bare bones to withstand a motion to dismiss, a well-written summary may help.

I was so impressed with the skillful use of the introduction in the tobacco case, that I have decided to write summaries at the head of every appropriate communication, including blog posts. And so, this is the first.



CLIFF TUTTLE has been a Pennsylvania lawyer for over 45 years and (inter alia) is a real estate litigator and legal writer. The posts in this blog are intended to provide general information about legal topics of interest to lawyers and consumers with a Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania focus. However, this information does not constitute legal advice and there is no lawyer-client relationship created when you read this blog. You are encouraged to leave comments but be aware that posted comments can be read by others. If you wish to contact me in privacy, please use the Contact Form located immediately below this message. I will reply promptly and in strict confidence.

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