The Case for Digital Legal Briefs

First of a 5-part series by TypeLaw on the future of digital legal briefs

The legal world has been evolving towards digitization for the past 30 years. Legal documents have transitioned into an almost fully digitized space, starting with the approval of PACER in 1988, opening electronic records to the public and moving into the current practice of mandatory e-filing across all federal and most state courts. E-filing solved many issues surrounding transparency, cost, and accessibility for attorneys, judges, clients, and the general public. Transitioning legal briefs from paper versions to digital versions was the logical next step in the ongoing digital evolution of the legal field. 

At TypeLaw, we saw the opportunity to be part of the future and we built our business around creating quality digital legal briefs. 

We agree with the research of the American Bar Association that digital briefs are the way of the future and are fundamentally superior to traditional paper briefs: 

“This is the next frontier—briefs that are not only more accessible, portable, and storable than paper briefs, but actually better to read and use than paper briefs.”-ABA

Digital legal briefs provide a variety of benefits to users including: 

  • Standardized formatting 
    • Briefs are in a PDF file that can be read on any electronic device and are accessible to all courts regardless of their e-filing requirements
  • Ongoing editing capability
    • Updates can be made real-time to edit the brief contents (i.e. tables and hyperlinks) and maintain continuity within the brief and appendix documents
  • Reduced cost and overhead
    • Filing, processing, and storage costs are significantly reduced with digital briefs compared to traditional paper
  • Increased access to the public, courts, and attorneys
    • Digital briefs can be easily accessed on a variety of devices by courts, attorneys, and members of the public 
  • Digital integration and increased functionality 
    • Improved capability to add citations, references, graphics, tables, et al to provide comprehensive support for a case and integrate seamlessly into the online world

The world of digital legal briefs is rapidly changing and at TypeLaw we want our customers to be at the forefront of that change. This series will walk you through key features of digital legal briefs identified by the ABA and how they benefit attorneys and legal professionals.

Click here for Part 2.


Making Better Briefs with Hyperlinks

Second of a series of 5 TypeLaw series on the future of digital legal briefs based on ABA research

Hyperlinks are a small, but mighty feature of digital briefs. Hyperlinks can either be internal (link to a different section of the same brief PDF), or external (link to a case authority on a website like CaseText/Westlaw/LexisNexis). Using internal and external hyperlinks, one digital brief can bring together all of the relevant documents related to a case. The ability to have all files related to a case one click away is invaluable to the entire legal ecosystem (attorneys, judges, court staff, paralegals, clients) where time and access to information is essential. The ABA has made the recommendation that hyperlinked briefs be allowed to be submitted as the brief of record for all courts. At TypeLaw, we knew that automating hyperlink capability would be essential to our clients’ success transitioning into the world of digital briefs.

Hyperlinks are easy for the court to verify, and help the court understand the arguments in your brief. In the core areas of brief hyperlinks, the ABA outlines the benefits to attorneys and the courts. 

  • Legal citations by filers 
    • Provides immediate access to legal authorities cited in standard citation format
    • Directs to legal research platforms or websites accessible to all users
    • Directs to key legal authorities in the appendix to adhere to file limits in a single PDF
  • Record citations by filers
    • Provides immediate access to cited items in trial court record
    • Connects citations between the brief and appendix within a single PDF file
    • Provides direct access to an externally stored trial court records without affecting file size limits
  • Authorized internet sites (i.e Westlaw, LEXIS, CaseText)
    • Provides direct access to external sites used across court systems
    • Allows for internet cited material to be included as a copy in the appendix for reference, avoiding dead links and errors
    • TypeLaw defaults to Casetext since there is no paywall for the reader, giving attorneys more control over how the brief lands arguments to authority.

Given the current landscape where federal and state courts vary greatly in their requirements for filers to hyperlink in brief filings, TypeLaw is focused on providing a cohesive experience for our customers. Each case, statute, and constitution cited in your brief can be easily hyperlinked to a URL available on the web, and used in any court across the country. 

Click here for Part 3.

Why tables can be the worst part of creating a brief

Creating tables is a chore. Hyperlinking each authority to specific pages in your brief, only to have to start over when you add a new paragraph and all the page numbers shift, just feels like a waste of time. Getting your formatting just right and updating all citations to their proper form could take hours of frustration. Although a decent amount of the time spent preparing a brief is writing and refining your argument, the time that isn’t is monotonous, tedious and prone to error. As the future of brief writing trends towards adding more requirements (see: electronic filing and bookmarking becoming mandatory for many courts nationwide, and hyperlinking citations gaining court approval as an easy way to connect opinions), making sure the minutiae is as solid as the content of the brief itself will continue to be a top priority. 

An unfortunate consequence of having to keep track of all of these requirements and implement them properly is that the actual content can suffer, as a result of having to spend time away from the substance of your argument. The 4-5+ hours spent on the technical details could have been spent elsewhere: enhancing a less-than-stellar sub point, working on another brief, or even just taking the time to rest and relax. Thankfully, there are definitely some excellent alternatives to doing everything yourself. Paralegal services are always an easy and efficient way to increase productivity, and great for firms with multiple litigators. For smaller firms, or to further empower paralegals at larger firms, services like TypeLaw that take care of formatting and electronic requirements can be an exceptional asset. At the end of the day, though, any of these services either directly or indirectly improve productivity, reduce the stress (and boredom) of the brief writer having to take care of the formatting details, and save valuable time. 

As an example of another upshot of the issue, here’s a simple quote from a conversation of ours with a partner at a California law firm: “I like to write. I do not like doing the stuff you do.” It’s simply not enjoyable for brief writers to have to take time away from writing to work on the extra work of formatting and electronic requirements. Beyond that, it’s not an effective use of their skill sets: if you’re a remarkable writer, you shouldn’t have to spend any of your time updating your page numbers and keeping track of where you cited authorities. Beyond that, even if you do use a service that can take a draft of your brief and turn it into a ready-to-file brief, one issue is that many processing services require you to resubmit everything for subsequent drafts. Using something like TypeLaw’s editor, however, can save you this headache: it’s a 24/7 service where you can revise and download updated copies of your brief. 

Creating tables and formatting your brief is a chore, but it doesn’t have to be that way. We suggest offloading this stress by using TypeLaw to take on the formatting work, and to stay focused on what you’re good at and love to do: write. 

How we made editing better

After you’re done drafting your brief, as any brief writer knows, you’re never done. Often, you’re editing up to the deadline: typos are a frequent source of frustration, and sometimes you might even need to write a new paragraph, or  delete an entire section. At this point you’ve probably already sent your brief off to have the tables created, the formatting fine-tuned, and hyperlinks created for every authority you’ve cited to. TypeLaw’s editor helps alleviate all of these problems: after you’ve sent your brief to us, we have a comprehensive editor that updates your tables and page numeration automatically, allows for as many edits as you would like, and is available for free, unlimited downloads at the click of a button.

Updating tables can be a pain, something that we realized early on; if you have a full draft of your brief ready, but realize that you need to include an additional authority or remove one, most brief writers have to regenerate the entire table of authorities, a process that can literally take hours. In TypeLaw’s editor, however, we’ve realized that this is a huge source of frustration. Our editor is built from the ground up for editing a brief: any time you add, remove, or modify a heading or citation, it’s automatically reflected in the tables that were generated when we delivered your brief. This makes refining your brief an easy process—simply make your changes, and everything is reflected in the tables you’ve included. 

Additionally, you can make as many edits as you want, and our editor will know to update your brief accordingly. Even if you delete entire sections, we’ll keep track of it: not only will your brief’s tables be updated, but every page number and hyperlink will be shifted accordingly. In a regular PDF of a brief (the filetype requested by most courts) this would be a tedious process, and in most cases would lead to errors either in the tables or in the body of the brief itself. However, we regenerate the PDF of your brief with each change you make, leading to perfect tables, line numbers (for briefs that require pleading paper) and each hyperlink created at the exact place it should be.

For most brief processing services, an additional edit or change would be prohibitively expensive, leading to either excess costs or a brief being filed incompletely. However, TypeLaw’s editor is free for the lifetime of your brief: any changes you want to include, no matter the scope or timeline (even months after uploading your brief to us!) are completely free. You can make as many changes as you want, and download as many copies as you’d like, all included with the cost of your brief. We want to make sure that every brief is perfect, and by including the cost of editing a brief with our service, we hope that we can help all of our clients achieve that goal. Editing your brief can be costly and time intensive, but with TypeLaw it doesn’t have to be. Sign up for a free account today at www.typelaw.com, and we can help guide you towards creating and editing perfect briefs.

How does TypeLaw save you time?

Saving time is one of the most valuable aspects of brief writing—the more time you can spend on your actual argument, the better it will be and the greater chance you can get your argument across to your reader. One of the main goals of TypeLaw is to save you time, in three general areas: creating your tables, formatting your brief, and refining your brief after all of this is done.

Arguably, the biggest time savings we offer is in table creation. Most briefs need a few tables, namely the Table of Contents and the Table of Authorities. We take care of these for you by both generating and updating them for you; every heading you provide to us will be inserted into a table of contents, and every authority you cite to will be accurately presented as an authority. Although some programs might offer the same basic functionality, we save you time by doing all of this automatically, and remembering how you refer to your headings and citations. If you want subheadings, for instance, our software knows how you have previously presented headings, and will appropriately indent the subsequent numeration. For authorities, we keep track of where you cite to them; if you’ve cited to an authority several paragraphs below the initial citation, we automatically update the citation to the proper form (usually, using supra to indicate it’s a prior citation). Both of these automatic processes save you valuable time, by reducing the amount of repetitive formatting you have to do.

Another valuable time savings is in our formatting. Most brief writers wait until the very end of their brief to format everything, because getting everything “just right” is a delicate and frustrating process. Our software automatically formats your brief as you type, meaning every time you download a new copy of your brief it will be perfectly formatted. Additionally, we keep track of your page numeration in regards to your tables: if you add a new paragraph and it pushes headings and citations down, TypeLaw’s editor knows to update the page numbers for both and will keep them updated for any additional edits you need to make.

In the background, another important way we save you time is helping in the refining process. As explained above, TypeLaw will automatically update your headings and citations because we know the exact place you’ve added them: by consistently updating your brief (we save copies every few seconds) you can continue to make edits and know that you won’t have to reformat everything you’ve already done. Even after we’ve delivered the brief to you (and maybe, even after you’ve filed it) you can always go back into your brief in our editor and make changes, free of charge. We believe this is incredibly valuable as a brief writer, because often there are changes that are caught right before filing that need edits : you can rest assured that our editor will keep your brief up-to-date.

Learn to leverage your staff with software

TypeLaw isn’t just for solo attorneys who don’t have staff; we truly believe that our software helps improve the quality of life of brief writing, whether it’s for an attorney working on a case by themselves or a complete staff that wants to speed up the process.

For solo attorneys, our service can be a game changer. We offer a comprehensive brief formatting service: tables, formatting, hyperlinking, and any custom services you require can be done automatically and efficiently, so you can focus on the content of your brief. If you’re a solo attorney who does not have staff and/or paralegals, we can help alleviate the stress of having to spend hours getting your brief just right. We’ll also make sure that your brief is not only filed, but loved by the court: our hyperlinking service has been praised across several courts in California, and if there are any issues with filing your brief, we’ll make sure they are ameliorated, free of charge. Additionally, we’ll keep your brief on our secure servers for as long as you need it; if you need to look back at any brief you’ve created in the past, you can always refer to our website from anywhere, anytime.

For attorneys with staff, we believe that we provide an equally beneficial service. Even if you have paralegals working to format and create tables for your brief, it still takes hours of time that could be spent elsewhere: researching, helping on other briefs, or another round of edits on your  brief to get it just right. Our service is automatic, fast, and cost-efficient, meaning your paralegals can upload your brief to us and get it back quickly, allowing them to spend time on more valuable aspects of the brief editing process. Creating tables, hyperlinks, and formatting briefs can be a very tedious and repetitive process, something we’re more than happy to take over.

Whether you’re a solo attorney or an attorney with a full staff, TypeLaw can help remove the stress and frustration of brief formatting. Let us take over the stuff you don’t want to do, so you can focus on the brief writing and editing process.

Trust and TypeLaw: why our clients rely on us

We realize that having attorneys and paralegals trust us with sensitive—and occasionally confidential—information isn’t always a quick or easy process. However, we believe that TypeLaw offers a quality, completely confidential service, for the fraction of the cost it would elsewhere. To clarify further on why we feel so strongly that we’re the right service for you, it helps to go through how we started working with briefs, how our current service works, and the plans we have for the future.

TypeLaw was founded in 2014 by a California lawyer, Chris Dralla, and a software engineer, Andrew Baker. The two founded our company in order to address a common need among many brief writers: formatting briefs is time intensive, and inconsistent. The pair’s goal fully realized was to create a service that can take a draft of any brief, in any court, and turn it into a ready-to-file PDF, that was also editable at any point. This goal stemmed from Chris’s initial frustrations as a brief writer himself, where he often found himself spending on time on formatting where it could have been better spent putting more work into the content of his briefs. In the present day, 5 years later, this goal has been achieved, and we currently work with dozens of clients on a weekly basis. In addition, because Chris started work as a lawyer himself, he realized the importance of security: the company was created from the ground up with confidentiality in mind…

Now in 2019, we’re humbled and proud to say that we’ve been trusted by over 500 attorneys to do more than 3,000 briefs. We’ve dealt with cases in every court in California and numerous courts in the Federal court system, as well as in other states. For the briefs we’ve helped on, the substance has ranged from small petitions in the Superior Court to large Supreme Court decisions (see: the recent Rosen decision). Security is our top priority, and we maintain high standards to keep our client data secure.

One of the most important reasons we believe TypeLaw is the right service is that we are constantly looking towards the future, especially with new, innovative ways to process and improve briefs. Notably, we recently implemented hyperlinking as a free add-on to any brief. This service allows anyone who uses TypeLaw to link all of their sources to the appropriate authorities, greatly improving the quality of their brief. Importantly, this is something the court has begun to recommend: [insert quote here]. We also keep track of court announcements and changes on a daily basis, and modify our service as quickly as possible to make sure we stay up-to-date. These are just a few of these ways that we make sure TypeLaw (and therefore your briefs!) remain future-proof. 

Why current software prevents you from making the best possible argument

Fifth in a series of 5 TypeLaw blogs on the future of digital legal briefs based on ABA research

In the digital evolution of the legal field, many types of software have come to market with the promise of improving work product or providing efficiency for attorneys. Not all legal software takes into account all court jurisdictions and their specific requirements, creating more work for attorneys working cases in multiple locations. Some software may not be compatible with all formats of reading briefs (electronic or paper), and may require additional work to format for readers, taking up valuable time from attorneys and support staff. TypeLaw solves this problem by automatically formatting to the specific jurisdiction, and providing an optimal experience that is device agnostic. This is also helpful to judges since they will not have to worry about the about ensuring a brief is able to be read on their device, since the brief will be automatically formatted to their jurisdiction. 

Minute details, such as line spacing, margins, alignment, and headings, are time consuming to format and not all legal software programs will format them correctly based on the court jurisdiction. More manual work with other software means less time crafting your argument and more time spent on formatting and organizing administrative information in a brief. For solo practitioners, the time saved on avoiding administrative work with briefs is a direct savings to their clients and their practice. 

Internal and external hyperlinks may not automatically be added with all current software, making it a manual task for a brief writer. Not all software automates hyperlinks, either internal or external, to various parts of the brief and/or appendix. This creates another layer of administrative work for an attorney, and detracts from valuable time spent on crafting the argument of a brief. TypeLaw solves this issue by automatically inserting hyperlinks in digital briefs with correct formatting. 

Attorneys have many competing factors in their work, and often rely on legal software to automate manual processes and save time on administrative tasks. Using the right legal software is the key to truly being able to pivot time to the core work of creating strong arguments and winning cases. 

Why the Table of Contents is the Most Important Part of Your Brief

Fourth in a series of 5 TypeLaw blogs on the future of digital legal briefs based on ABA research

If you view a brief as the map to a case, the table of contents is the navigation point that directs you to the information you need to find your ultimate destination. A good table of contents is key for everyone interacting with the brief -attorneys, judges, court staff, legal assistants- to get the best information in the shortest amount of time. In a digital brief for a large case referencing multiple statutes, rulings, and cases, it is important for the table of contents to be organized for the reader to easily find items and go directly to them while reading the brief. 

The table of contents works alongside bookmarks to allow the reader to easily find arguments and go directly to them on a digital brief. In the transition from paper to digital briefs, it is essential to have a strong table of contents to direct the reader to the different parts of a brief, especially for long, complex cases with a high volume of citations. Style counts in a table of contents, and using the correct, standard typography (fonts, typefaces, spacing, formatting, et al) contributes to the difference between a great brief and a mediocre brief. TypeLaw solves this issue for attorneys by automating the formatting for digital briefs to fit the standard, recommended typography. This takes the stress behind formatting a brief off attorneys and support staff, freeing time to spend crafting the text of the brief. 

A brief can be viewed as the most important tool in an attorney’s toolbox to effectively represent a client and win their case by presenting a solid argument rooted in logic. The table of contents is the backbone of a strong brief as it provides the map for the argument presented by the attorney for their side of the case. This is especially true in appellate briefs, which are generally reliant on statutory law and public policy to support the arguments made within. Keeping in mind that a judge is reviewing numerous cases with large amounts of supporting documentation at any given time, it is critical to provide a logical map to your argument within a brief, and a strong table of contents is one of the most effective ways to build your case to the reader.

Click here for Part 5.

How Do Bookmarks Help a Judge?

Third in a series of 5 TypeLaw blogs on the future of digital legal briefs based on ABA research

A bookmark provides an automated link between citations in a brief and key materials of record for a case. Bookmarks and internal hyperlinks work together to provide access to resources related to a case with a simple, direct link for the user within the brief. Many states, including California, require bookmarks for navigation in court documents at the Supreme and Appeals court level. In digital legal briefs, bookmarks are a key feature, especially to navigate large, complex cases with numerous citations and record documents.

The ABA recommends the use of bookmarks so readers can easily find and read sections of interest to them using the side panel outline of a brief. Bookmarks match the section titles and headings within a brief, allowing readers can easily skip to sections they want to read. When TypeLaw is used to create a digital brief, bookmarks are automatically inserted with corresponding section titles and headings. TypeLaw digital briefs also include bookmarks in the appendix, which is extraordinarily helpful for judges navigating through hundreds (or even thousands) of pages of the appendix for a single brief. In addition, TypeLaw briefs can be edited at any time, and bookmarks can be seamlessly added for new citations as necessary. 

Manually creating bookmarks can be very time consuming depending on the length of the brief, and automating the process provides valuable time back to lawyers and staff preparing for a case. Bookmarks are a key piece of the digital evolution of legal documents as more judges move away from printing paper briefs and migrate to using electronic devices to read digital briefs. More importantly, a wealth of information is available at the click of a mouse to the judge reading the electronic brief. A well-organized digital brief saves the judge time when they need to find the most important elements of an argument for a case, especially when both judges and attorneys are juggling multiple cases and clients at any given time. Court staff can easily search the bookmarks of a digital brief to find items to create court orders and other record documents for a case. As more aspects of the legal world move to the digital space, maintaining easy to use files is crucial, and bookmarks help judges and attorneys keep order in a busy space. 

Click here for Part 4.

TypeLaw Customer Testimonial-Charles Dell’Ario

With a prestigious career spanning 44 years and counting, certified appellate specialist Alan Charles “Chuck” Dell’Ario has witnessed many changes in the legal field and the growing presence of technology in traditional legal practices. Not one to shy away from a challenge, he saw the need to integrate technology into his own practice after becoming a solo practitioner and continuing to take on multiple high level appellate cases each year. Lacking the staff that comes with working in a firm, Dell’Ario knew that his time was more valuable than ever and was in search of tools to streamline his workload and minimize time-consuming tasks. Passing the savings to his clients through fewer billed hours was his ultimate goal.

In 2014, Dell’Ario had been without a formal, staffed office for three years when he discovered TypeLaw. He was instantly drawn to the ability to create digital briefs that included formatting and tables specific to the court jurisdiction. Tables and appendices that could take hours to format and edit could now be done in less than an hour with TypeLaw. Tables were more accurate as TypeLaw automatically updated them as he would edit a brief.

The TypeLaw team was standing by and able to help Dell’Ario with time-sensitive requests and questions, a benefit that was extremely valuable to a lawyer working without support staff. By 2016, Dell’Ario was using TypeLaw for all of his briefs. In 2019 alone, he has filed 10 appellate briefs using TypeLaw, encompassing 65,000 words and 3 oral arguments. He has several others in progress. 

“TypeLaw’s court-specific table and appendix add-on features are huge time and cost savers when crafting briefs. Knowing that the tables are automatically updated and formatted to court standards helps me be sure that each brief complies with all court rules when filing.”

Chuck Dell’Ario

One of the signature cases in Mr. Dell’Ario’s successful legal career was decided in favor of his client last year, Regents of the Univ. of Cal. v. Superior Court (Rosen) (2018) 4 Cal.5th 607. TypeLaw was used in 20 different briefs, petitions, and motions related to the opinions in the case. The case spent almost a decade in the courts below before the California Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling in 2018 that all colleges owe a duty to protect students from foreseeable violence on campus.  Dell’Ario ultimately received a CLAY (California Lawyer Attorney of the Year) award for his work on the case.

Dell’Ario and TypeLaw also collaborated in T.H. vs. Novartis Pharm. Corp. (2017) 4 Cal.5th 145. He co-authored an amicus brief using TypeLaw on behalf of the Consumer Attorneys of California. In a win for consumers, the California Supreme Court found that brand-name drug manufacturers owe a duty of reasonable care to ensure that product labels warn of potentially adverse effects of their drugs, whether brand name or a generic equivalent, and were still liable after manufacture ceased if labels were not adequately updated. TypeLaw provided a seamless experience for Dell’Ario and his co-author to draft and edit the amicus brief with ease while located on opposite coasts. 

For a solo practitioner like Alan Charles Dell’Ario, becoming an early adopter to TypeLaw expanded his ability to take on multiple high profile cases and clients without the need for legal support staff. He credits TypeLaw for providing him with a comprehensive user experience to consistently meet client needs.