The date is not the story. The event is the story. The only important thing is proximity. The event happened before some things in the plot, at the same time as other events and after others. For example, no one but the most hard-core Harry Potter fan will know the exact date he met Hagrid to receive his Hogwarts letter. The date does not matter. All that matters is that it was his birthday.
But lawyers write as if the dates are the story. Pick a summary judgment motion or pleading at random. Paragraph after paragraph begins, "On Jan. 24, 2009, an event happened that you no longer care about or remember because I put a date at the beginning of the sentence, and you don't know whether the date is important or how the event fits in."
Creating a fact section by copying and pasting the chronology from a trial notebook does not tell the reader which events are important or why those events are important. All it does is set out when every event happened. Using proximity to tell the story communicates pace and importance. Using dates communicates an ability to cut and paste.
I can already hear the protests. Sometimes when something happened is important, like in a dispute over limitations. But even here, limitations does not depend upon dates. It depends on the passage of time: "Carl Client filed this suit last year, but he ceased to be a client of Fancy Firm LLP during the Reagan Administration." There's not a date to be found, but the reader knows who is entitled to judgment and why.
Tell the story with a beginning, a middle and an end. Don't take up the reader's short-term memory with dates. Instead, tell the reader what happened "next," "four days later," "two years earlier" or "that same day."
2. Killing all the characters (hereinafter "KATC"): Good stories are character driven. If a suit is a story, then the parties and the witnesses are the characters. But leave it to lawyers to adopt writing techniques that kill all the characters.
Lawyers kill off their characters in two ways: the unnecessary definition and the Mystifyingly Obtuse Acronymic Definition (hereinafter "MOAD"). If a lawyer represents The Boeing Co., and if there is only one Boeing in the case, there is no need for the brief to start "COMES NOW The Boeing Co. (hereinafter 'Boeing') ..." Can't we all just have a grand bargain that unnecessary definitions be dropped? If someone actually marks that edit to your draft brief, just say no.
Then there is the MOAD. Any lawyer representing Porsche Cars of North America Inc. should be horsewhipped for using the acronym "PCNA" instead of calling the client "Porsche." Only a lawyer would do that. "Porsche" has panache. PCNA is not even a word. (For a worthy rant on the topic, take a look at Mark Herrmann's Inside Straight column for Above the Law, "On Alphabet Soup (Hereinafter 'OAS')" from Feb. 24, 2011.)
Ironically, one sometimes must convince clients to chuck the acronyms they use for themselves in favor of becoming characters. But a dedicated lawyer can do it, and it is critically important to telling the client's story.
If the client's name is not particularly evocative, or if similar names exist in the story of the suit, a lawyer can name the client-character he represents for its structural position in the dispute. For example, in a recent dispute between a purchaser, a seller and a bank involving a sale of goods and a letter of credit, the trial lawyers named all three parties by inscrutable sets of initials. The result was that every filing had at least three sets of MOADs for the trial court to re-learn and keep straight. Why not "the buyer," "the seller" and "the bank"?