I have been asked whether the introduction to a brief — the “preliminary statement” — should be written first or last. The answer is that it depends.

To increase the chances of encapsulating your argument in the preliminary statement on your first try, write it last, after you have gathered, analyzed and articulated all the facts and law. At that point, you are in the best position, almost by definition, to formulate an overview. As one member of my informal polling group says, “I can’t summarize what I’ve said until I know what I’ve said.”

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