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One of the most important rules when it comes to drafting a pleading, or any document that will (or could) get filed with the court, is not codified anywhere except in the minds of good legal writers: Keep it simple.
Using concise, plain language is the new normal when it comes to legal writing. And along with easy to read language, formatting your pleadings to be easier to review can payoff in dividends. Along those lines, one of the simplest, and best, ways to format almost any pleading just involves structuring a pleading into a logical outline format and numbering your paragraphs.
While everyone agrees that having a good outline structure with headings is critical, many will not agree that every pleading filed should have paragraph numbers, and they might be right. But below, you'll find three reasons why numbering a pleading's paragraphs is still an idea worth considering.
Every time you draft a pleading, if you are not considering your audience, you are making a mistake. Fortunately, you don't necessarily have to know who your judges and clerks are as people or ideologically, but you should definitely consider what their jobs entail. By numbering your pleading paragraphs, you'll make it easier for the court to review your pleadings and check citations back to a previous pleading.
Before you start drafting, just think for a moment about whether having your pleading paragraphs numbered will make a clerk or judge's job easier. Will future pleadings be referring to the one you're filing? Will you want to cite to paragraph numbers during an oral argument? Is there a rule requiring paragraphs be numbered a la FRCP Rule 10?
When you're drafting a pleading and you want some feedback or help, it will be much more efficient for you and your team to work together if you can simply refer to specific paragraphs by number. Using the page and line numbers on pleading paper is much more involved than simple calling up a paragraph number.
When you're trying to confirm your pleading actually puts forth the arguments you outlined, you can quickly make a chart (for your own reference only) that lists each argument and the paragraph numbers that support each argument, and even each element of each argument.
Depending on what you are filing, numbering each paragraph might not make sense for the court. However, note that two of the three reasons above for numbering your paragraphs are intended to help the pleading drafter, not the reader.
Thankfully, in these modern times, if you are capable enough to use auto-numbering for your paragraphs, when you're ready to finalize for filing, the numbers can be removed in a few simple clicks.
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.