Sans Serif? Sans Chance!

Sans Serif? Sans Chance!

Last week, Andrews Kurth LLP blog posted an interesting article regarding preferred fonts for appellate briefs and court filings. Surprisingly, many courts have very specific typography requirements for attorneys. These requirements range from font type to size minimums to appropriate font styles such as bold, italicized or underlined. The United States Court Of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has gone so far as to publish a report outlining the Requirements and Suggestions For Typography In Briefs and Other Papers. The essay focuses on readability and the advantage attorneys have if their briefs and legal filings are visually superior.

Some interesting typography requirements for the Seventh Circuit are as follows:

  • Rule 32(a)(1)(B) requires text to be reproduced with “a clarity that equals or exceeds the output of a laser printer.”
  • Rule 32(a)(5) distinguishes between proportional and monospaced fonts, and between serif and sans-serif type
    • Proportionally spaced type uses different widths for different characters. A monospaced face uses the same width for each character. The rule leaves to each lawyer the choice between proportional and monospaced type.
    • Serifs are small horizontal or vertical strokes at the ends of the lines that make up the letters and numbers. The rule accordingly limits the principal sections of submissions to serif type, although sans-serif type may be used in headings and captions.
  • Type may be larger than 12 points, but it cannot be smaller
  • The main body of the document cannot be bold, italic, capitalized, underlined, narrow, or condensed.
  • Rule 32(a)(7) determines the maximum length of a brief to be 50 printed pages

The essay further provides the following helpful advice for attorneys regarding typography:

  • Briefs are like books rather than newspapers. The most important piece of advice we can offer is this: read some good books and try to make your briefs more like them.
  • Choosing the best type won’t guarantee success, but it is worth while to invest some time in improving the quality of the brief’s appearance and legibility.
  • You can improve your chances by making your briefs typographically superior.

The Seventh Circuit suggests anyone involved in creating and filing court documents should read the opinions of the Supreme Court and Solicitor General in their acrobat format, located here. These will provide good examples of efficient and effective typography. In addition, several state courts have specific typography requirements as well. For more information about typography requirements in your jurisdiction, this post is a helpful reference.

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