February 26, 2018 Articles

How to Confront Your Worst Fears about Appellate Oral Argument

Oral argument tips from a battle-hardened appellate veteran and an appellate newcomer.

By Sylvia H. Walbolt and Nick A. Brown – February 26, 2018

Seven years ago, the senior author of this article wrote an article called “Twenty Tips from a Battered and Bruised Oral-Advocate Veteran.” 37 Litigation (Winter 2011). Since then, Walbolt has been bruised plenty more times. And since then, the junior author of this article has entered the practice of law with her, after serving as a judicial clerk for an appellate court, and has now made his first appellate oral arguments. In fact, Brown was asked to present one of his first appellate oral arguments in a case that he had never even heard of—and he had less than 48 hours to do so when the lead lawyer had a family emergency.

Together, we have learned many lessons, particularly that appellate oral arguments really should not be feared. Just the opposite—they are your best, and likely last, chance to persuade the court to accept the position that you have advanced in the appeal.

Nonetheless, if you are worried about making an appellate oral argument, you are not alone. After all, lawyers have been known to faint at the podium during their argument. This article is intended to help you by providing some additional perspectives to the “Twenty Tips” article.

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