Using “on the other hand” to concede a point

Advice for lawyers writing legal briefs:

[In legal writing,] weak arguments are risky: “[A] weak argument does more than merely dilute your brief. It speaks poorly of your judgment and thus reduces confidence in your other points.”… On the other hand, the law is what a majority of judges say it is — so an argument you consider weak may provide a basis for forming a majority.

Persuasive Legal Writing by Daniel U. Smith

In this passage, Daniel Smith makes two somewhat contradictory claims:

  1. Strong arguments are better than weak arguments.
  2. A weak argument may win the case if the judge happens to agree with it.

Smith uses the phrase “on the other hand” to concede, or admit, that his first argument isn’t always true. First he makes a strong claim; then he qualifies his strong claim by conceding, or admitting, that there are exceptions to the rule.

This is a standard feature of academic writing, one that is important to master.

The reader over your shoulder
Concession words

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