November 26, 2021

Volume XI, Number 330


November 24, 2021

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Right Is Simple

Thanks to a colleague, I was lucky enough to come across an article on about this handwritten note from Abraham Lincoln in the National Archive.

Lincoln needed only seven simple words to save a life and prove the stupidity of a tribunal's judgment.

 Michael Delaney had been sentenced to death for desertion from his Colorado regiment. Delaney was no coward and no scofflaw. He was arrested while fighting for another Colorado regiment. But the Army, being the Army, sentenced him to death anyway.

Lincoln's response? Seven words:

Let him fight instead of being shot.

A. Lincoln

Isn't the right answer to a problem so often the short and simple answer? And it can be communicated in simple prose.

But if your brief sounds like an extended and complicated tap routine by the World Greco-Roman Wrestling Federation, it sounds wrong even if it's right.

Why do we do it? We write less like Lincoln getting at the truth, and more like scribes getting paid by the word.

Copyright © 2021, Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP. All Rights Reserved.National Law Review, Volume II, Number 229

About this Author

Kendall M. Gray, Antitrust Litigation Attorney, Andrews Kurth Law Firm

Kendall is a board certified civil appellate specialist who has represented clients in state and federal appellate courts such as the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. Courts of Appeal for the Fifth, Ninth, Tenth and Federal Circuits, the Supreme Court of Texas and many intermediate courts of appeal. His practice includes a variety of complex commercial, medical malpractice and toxic tort matters, as well as a particular focus in disputes involving employee benefits, managed care and ERISA. The disputes commonly require complex written and oral advocacy on such topics as ERISA preemption,...