Over at Above the Law, Mark Herrmann gives sound advice on answering questions during oral argument. The two best words to begin your answer: “yes” or “no.” (Not both; you have to pick one.)
How would the Supreme Court look with the justices and lawyers played by dogs? Something like this.
In digging through some back issues of Litigation, I came across Who Should Do the Oral Argument?, by Robert A. Mittelstaedt and Brian J. Murray of Jones Day. Their point: this question does not have a one-size-fits-all answer. Depending on the situation, the best choice might be the trial lawyer or the appellate specialist; or the senior partner or the associate who did the leg work.
Here’s an interesting tip I picked up at the recent U.S. Fifth Circuit seminar, courtesy of Judge Priscilla Owen: If you or your client cannot afford the cost of travel for oral argument, say so in the brief, in the statement regarding oral argument. The judges will consider those statements when deciding whether to docket the case for oral argument.
Actually not so much of a tip as a confession. The process of oral argument is not so bad (I love the give-and-take with the panel), but the prospect of oral argument causes me tons of anxiety. So the last two oral arguments I’ve had, I resorted to my ace in the hole: lorazepam. I happen to have a prescription of this medicine for sleep. And some time ago, my doctor suggested that it would be okay to take one now and then if I was especially anxious. So for my last two oral arguments, I took a 0.5 mg. dose about an hour before the argument. And it seemed to be effective. Both times, I walked up to the lectern calm, relaxed, and confident.
I am not suggesting that anyone follow my example. I am just saying that this works for me. I will also say that my living with the record for extended time periods had much more to do with whatever success I had than a little bit of medicine before the argument. I’m just saying that, for me, when the buildup to the big moment causes severe jitters, this little bit of medicine calms the jitters and helps me say what I’ve spent days or weeks (or longer) preparing to say.
I am also saying that whatever you read from this blog from here on out will come from the same source. While I may cite an authority or two, I am not here to just pass on stuff that I read somewhere else. I am here to tell you what I do and why I do it.