You’re standing in a room, holding a book in your hands. Another person walks in, and shouts, “Put that book down immediately!” You turn and ask the reason for the demand. Which reason would you find more persuasive: “Because I said so!” or “It’s a rare first edition and you must wear gloves when handling it or you’ll damage the paper.”

Unless you happen to be five years old, chances are good you’ll find the second explanation more persuasive, and more likely to result in the desired outcome. Why? Because it provides a logical, persuasive explanation for the request. Nobody likes being told that they must do something just because.

The same logic applies to ERISA claim disputes. Many of the rules and procedures may be counter-intuitive to lawyers or judges who have not handled many ERISA disputes. Simply telling the judge that she has to decide the issue one way, because other courts have said so, may motivate her to look for a way around the rule. The truth is, you can give reasons why ERISA litigation is the way it is. In many cases there is a persuasive argument that the ruling you are requesting will advance important congressional policies underlying ERISA. At the very least, educating the court on the pertinent congressional policies will allow the court to put your request in its proper context, and will lessen the possibility of a decision that actually harms those important policies.