"Preparing For And Delivering
An Effective Oral Argument"

Submitted by Dennis Chappabitty:

Updated September 15, 2003
by: Coleen M. Barger, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, William H. Bowen School of Law

The attorney for the appellant sits at counsel table, reviewing her outline and mentally rehearing her opening. Across the room, the appellee's counsel is similarly engaged in quiet meditation on the verbal match that will begin in just a few minutes.

The court's bailiff enters the room, announcing, “All rise! The Supreme Court of the State of Arkansas is now in session.” Everyone in the large courtroom gets to his feet as the justices, in their black robes, file into the courtroom and take their seats at the bench. The chief justice indicates that the audience may be seated, and then he reads the style of the case: “This is case number 01-305, Johnson versus Olsen Construction Company. Is counsel for the appellant ready to proceed?”

Appellant's counsel stands and replies, “Yes, your honor.” She walks to the lectern, looks at each member of the court, takes a breath, and begins, “May it please the C o u r t . . . .”

If you are well prepared for it, oral argument is one of the most exhilarating experiences you can undergo as an attorney. If you are not well prepared, it can be one of the most humiliating. At its best, oral argument is a stimulating dialogue between counsel and the court. At its worst, oral argument is a droning verbal rehash of the points and authorities already laid out in the brief, delivered before a passive panel of judges.   "Read The Original Article"

close this window