Every evening, as part of my dinner clean up routine, I set up the coffee maker for the next morning. When I get up and pad my way to the kitchen to start the day, voila! I press the button* and fresh coffee is ready by the time I feed the cat and unload the dishwasher. I am so grateful to my last-night self each morning when I take that first sip.
In the same way, I practice making my future self happy in my legal writing by preparing a transcript digest for each case I brief. The digest is pretty simple; just a chart in One Note (I use Microsoft Office 365) with columns for page number, topic, and details or quote. With the digest, I can quickly notice themes, pinpoint the exact page evidence was admitted or an objection made, and I don’t have to search through the entire transcript to find a page number or quote when write. It is also a quick way to return to the case after time has passed such as when I need to write the reply brief or prepare for oral argument.
The benefits of keeping a digest are pretty obvious, but believe it or not, I struggled through my first several briefs without taking this strategic step. I was lamenting to a colleague my struggle to keep all of the relevant information from a transcript in my mind when she suggested the digest. I immediately slapped my forehead and could not believe I had not thought of this simple solution. Further searching pointed me to the three column method and I had a process!
Since instituting transcript digests in my pre-writing process, I have been better able to analyze the legal issues in my cases, make groupings and draw connections for better persuasive writing. Future me said thank-you! You’re welcome!
*Yes, I know I could set the coffee maker on a timer. I like the flexibility of pressing the on button when I make it to the kitchen.