April 07, 2005
What if things go orally wrong?
April 7, 2005 11:27 PM
Tomorrow I have practice oral arguments for my Written and Oral Arguments class. Practice is used very loosely to mean that instead of arguing against your assigned opponent you argue against someone voluntarily, and instead of a practitioner and a TA evaluating you, it's two TAs instead. Oh and your pass/no pass grade is not determined based on this. Beyond that, it's for real.
This raises the questions (for me at least), why the hell didn't I do debates while in college? Have I missed something as important as learning a language at a young age, where now I am beyond hope? Can oral arguments really change all the much from an already (imho) kickass brief? Why do I write blog entries whenever nervous?
I have my real oral arguments tomorrow. My practice argument did not go so well. (Picture 30 seconds of "I...uh...um...hmmmm...." until the prof mercifully said, "You can go on.") I'm hoping for a mediocre performance at best--I'm at least prepared with a plan for a totally blank moment. Anyway, I have the satisfaction of knowing that even if my opponent out-argues me, my brief kicks his brief's ass. Seriously. It does.
My partner has the skill of sounding confident even if he is totally making shit up. Not sure how well that'll serve him in a real appellate court, but I think it'll get him through law school oral arguments just fine.
An oral argument before an appellate court should not consist of a repeat of the brief. Rather, it is an opportunity to direct the attention of the judges to the highlights of your position and to respond to questions they may ask. You should anticipate such questions. I assume the time is limited so you have to be flexible if the judges' questions/comments and your responses interfere with the flow of your prepared oral agrument; so make sure to get in your major points quickly so you will not run out of time. Know when to stop.