March 10, 2017 Articles

Oral Argument: Striking a Balance Between Judicial Assistance and Zealous Advocacy

By Emily R. Bodtke

One of the most exciting and intimidating experiences for a new attorney is oral argument. Oral argument requires you to articulate a legal argument before one or more judges, to understand and address their questions, and to counter your opponent’s points—all within a relatively short window of time and all without losing your bearings.

Given these challenges, it is not surprising that many attorneys fail to make the most of the rare opportunity that oral argument presents—namely, of interacting face-to-face with the decision maker in your case. Some attorneys adopt an overly combative or single-minded position that cripples their ability to engage in a persuasive dialogue with the judge. Other attorneys fall prey to the danger of conceding too much and compromising their client’s position.

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