Recently, we’ve written some articles that focus on
Actually do it
This might seem almost too basic to some people, but I’ve had to use many club briefs that had little to no CX advice or preparation—even when the authors had faced the case multiple times already. It definitely can be helpful for users of your brief, but you should do it even if the brief is just for your own use: in my experience, actively imagining CX situations can help spark thoughts about potential responses and arguments even outside of CX, as well as how something might sound to a judge.
2. Understand different types of CX points
One can classify CX questions in many different ways (e.g. “probing questions” vs “set-ups”), but I have found that for the purposes of brief writing, it is helpful to distinguish between at least three major types of CX points: questions, blocks, and lines.
- “Questions” are just simple individual questions, or questions with basic follow ups (e.g. “if they disagree, ask why”).
- A “block” is a cluster of questions that gravitate around a central topic or argument (e.g. funding), but do not need to be read in a specific order.
- A “line” is a set of questions that is meant to be read in a specific order or with a specific flow in mind, which often requires accounting for how the other speaker will respond.
The following is an illustration of this recommendation (and incorporates some of the other recommendations mentioned later on):
Understanding this basic classification can be foundational for some of the later points, including the next one.
3. Number and organize your points neatly
Honestly, if I were handed a brief shortly before a round and found that the CX section was just a mess of bullet points and questions, I don’t know if I would be willing (let alone able) to use that section. In the interests of your users (including yourself), at a minimum you can name/number your questions, group common questions into blocks (and name/number the blocks), separate the blocks from the individual questions, and just otherwise put some thought into the neatness of the section.
4. Explain why you have certain points/questions
It can be very frustrating to find that the CX section is just a list of points or questions without any clear explanation as to their purpose. Thus, if only for the points that are important and not self-explanatory, I strongly recommend inserting a statement that looks something like this: “Purpose: to point out that affirmative sources X and Y contradict each other about Z.”
5. Discuss it with your club
This is very important (and broad), because all of the other recommendations should be subject to this–whether it’s how your club wants to format the CX sections, whether each point should have a purpose statement, or whether or not to even require some amount of CX points in club briefs. Additionally, you may think about issues and topics which I haven’t discussed here.
The following recommendations are generally not necessary, but I have found that they can be helpful for users.
1. Specify what CX tactics are used
For example, I would occasionally recommend making a small note if a CX line uses something like storytelling, burden basing, question bluffs, etc. This definitely is not crucial, but it can be helpful up front, in part because some approaches (e.g. bluffs) need question intonation that can’t really be written out. In short, it’s just that if the point says “burden basing” (for example), that can quickly orient me to the point’s thought process and purpose.
2. Actively connect CX points with the rest of the brief
By this, I mean try to explicitly tie questions with arguments elsewhere in the brief, such as by saying, “this question is meant to set up Solvency 3,” or, “ask CX Block 2 before running this argument.” As you might notice, this is where numbering/tagging CX points becomes especially important.
3. CX Strategy
This is definitely going the extra mile, but if you are very familiar with a popular case and CX is important for beating it, why not include some discussion of strategy? There is no one way to write a strategy, but some things it can cover are 1) How to best use CX time by considering factors such as each point’s importance in relation to its complexity/time usage; 2) How some of the points relate to the rest of the brief (as mentioned previously); 3) Major pitfalls to watch out for (such as points that contradict each other); 4) When to ask certain points (i.e. question order).
Especially when the you put in a basic amount of effort, CX sections definitely can be helpful not only for the users of your brief, but also potentially for you (when writing). The recommendations here are meant to emphasize that and also explain how to design more-helpful CX sections. These recommendations can require extra effort and sometimes they aren’t crucial, but if you have the time, most of them are simple ways to improve your briefs’ usability. Ultimately, I hope you use this article as an opportunity to discuss this topic within your club and reevaluate your approach to writing CX sections.