Bottom line: In high-profile cases, introductory paragraphs and preliminary statements must be written for audiences OUTSIDE of court: the media and the public.

Most attorneys are already using preliminary statements and introductory paragraphs in their court papers to provide a roadmap to the court and opposing counsel of the factual arguments and legal arguments that the attorneys are making in those court papers.

But when an attorney is involved in a high-profile case, he or she needs to go one step beyond that.

In a high-profile case, an attorney can expect court papers to be read by the media, and through the media, the general public.

An attorney has to do more with a preliminary statement or introductory paragraphs in his or her court papers in these types of cases than simply summarize and provide this roadmap.

The attorney has to connect those arguments — factual or legal — with the bigger picture themes that the attorney wants to eventually resonate with a jury, but in the meantime, the media, the public, and the opposing parties and their counsel.

And the attorney needs to do so in a way that is heavy on plain English and virtually eliminates legalese.

It’s important that attorneys take this step back and use preliminary statements and introductory paragraphs in this manner because it’s really the only opportunity where an attorney can stray a little bit from the legalese and the otherwise dense content that is in a typical court filing.

Remember, the media, and through them, the public, might very well be reading the first few pages of court filings in high-profile cases. For the most part, these people aren’t used to diving in to a typical court filing.

So even a court filing that is fairly breezy—say, 10 pages long and not particularly detailed or in-depth—is still likely to be a hurdle for the normal non-lawyer reader to understand and digest.

When an attorney is using a preliminary statement or introductory paragraphs in a high-profile case to weave in big picture themes that transcend the facts at issue in that particular case, he or she is more likely to connect with audiences outside of court in a way that garners their support.

Writing preliminary statements and introductory paragraphs in this manner is also beneficial for persuading in-court audiences.

Doing so shows opposing counsel, the judge, and his or her clerks the bigger picture of the case—beyond the surface level factual and legal arguments. And it should convey that message in a way that leads them to the inescapable conclusion that the attorney and his or her client are in the right.

When media-savvy attorneys are involved in high-profile cases, they should be using other documents to help educate the media and the public regarding the substance of those cases such as press releases, facts sheets, timelines, and FAQs.

But sometimes, there is no better way to tell a client’s side of the story of a legal dispute in the Court of Public Opinion than the actual court paper or filing.

That’s why attorneys must make sure that their court papers are written in a way that connects and persuades non-attorney readers. That is accomplished by writing introductory paragraphs and preliminary statements without legalese and in a breezy, easily digested way.

I would advise attorneys to get in the habit of writing their preliminary statements and introductory paragraphs in this way, even in their cases that are not high-profile.

Once they get into that habit and build that muscle memory, they’ll be much better equipped for when there is a true high-profile case where they can help the media and the public understand the substance of that case by weaving in bigger picture themes into their introductory paragraphs and their preliminary statement.

Bottom line: In high-profile cases, introductory paragraphs and preliminary statements must be written for audiences OUTSIDE of court: the media and the public.

Wayne Pollock is the founder and managing attorney of Copo Strategies in Philadelphia, a national legal services and communications firm. Attorneys, law firms, and their clients enlist Copo Strategies to ethically, proactively, and strategically engage the media and the public regarding those clients’ cases (to help resolve those cases favorably), and to engage the media, referral sources, and prospective clients regarding their firms (to help bring new client matters in the door). Contact him at waynepollock@copostrategies.com or 215–454–2180.