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Judges use the Rule of Three. Practitioners use the Rule of Three. And so do all manner of legal academics. Yet although many people seem to have an intuitive feel for how useful this rhetorical move is, no extended explanation of its mechanics and variety of forms exists. This essay offers that explanation. It begins with an introduction to the more straightforward form of the rule of three, which simply involves arranging information not in twos or fours or any other set of numbers-but rather in the trusty, melodic structure of threes. It then moves on to a closer look at some of the Rule of Three's more-subtle forms. And finally, it concludes with some playful questions and examples, each designed to make it easier to recognize and use the Rule of Three in memos, briefs, and many other kinds of legal writing.


This article originally printed as Barry, Patrick. "The Rule of Three." Legal Comm. & Rhetoric 15 (2018): 247-61.