Need some 1L oral argument encouragement/advice

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skw
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Need some 1L oral argument encouragement/advice

Postby skw » Tue Mar 27, 2012 10:15 am

I participated in my school's moot court competition (round 1) last night and did not do very well. I felt like my arguments went OK, but clearly since I didn't make it to the 2nd round, I need to improve. I'm not worried about not making moot court because my goal is to do journal instead. I participated to get some practice before our graded oral arguments for our writing class next week. Anyhow, I'd like to share the few points of criticism the judges (1 2L for each of 2 argument rounds) provided and appreciate any feedback or advice others on the forum might have to help me improve prior to my graded argument next week. For some color, I spent the last 12 years selling enterprise technology (e.g. multimillion dollar transactions). I am not normally nervous in front of groups and have spoken to rooms full of C-level and high ranking execs without the slightest anxiety. For some reason, right before my oral argument, I felt very nervous, and I think that impacted my performance...I hesitated when I normally would not -- my voice wasn't very steady, etc. Anyhow, here it is:

1. We were advised by the moot court faculty adviser NOT to ask the court if they wanted to hear the facts, but just to start doing that section and wait to be interrupted. Expecting to be interrupted, I had not really prepared this section and ended up going on WAY too long with the facts. In a 10 minute argument, what is the approximate time you should allocate to facts (assuming you're not interrupted)?

2. I was told that it was difficult to tell which section of my presentation was which (e.g. impact statement, versus road-map, versus entry into actual argument). How should one ensure these sections are clearly differentiated?

3. I'm used to walking around when speaking, but I'm told you should stand at the podium, hands on podium and not move. Is that correct? Is hand movement OK while you talk? How much?

4. Any general advice on things that work for you is also appreciated.

Thanks very much to anyone willing to share their thoughts.

kaiser
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Re: Need some 1L oral argument encouragement/advice

Postby kaiser » Tue Mar 27, 2012 10:26 am

Check out Scalia's "Making Your Case". Its a great book on effective oral advocacy based on the best and worst lawyering he has seen front the bench. The book is devoid of political slant or anything like that and cuts right to some great advice on oral presentation.

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skw
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Re: Need some 1L oral argument encouragement/advice

Postby skw » Tue Mar 27, 2012 11:56 am

Thanks kaiser -- I just downloaded it from Amazon and there are some great tips in there.

Anyone else?

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Gamecubesupreme
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Re: Need some 1L oral argument encouragement/advice

Postby Gamecubesupreme » Tue Mar 27, 2012 2:24 pm

Best advice I've heard was to talk to the judges as if you are speaking to grade school children.

A lot of the times, they will not be nearly as well-versed on the topic as you, so the slower and more careful you are in your answers to their questions, the better you will come off as an oral advocate.

Of course, that only really applies to moot court situations.

In real life, half of the advice for moot court goes out the window.

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TTH
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Re: Need some 1L oral argument encouragement/advice

Postby TTH » Tue Mar 27, 2012 3:51 pm

Sweep the leg.

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InnocuousDiatribe
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Re: Need some 1L oral argument encouragement/advice

Postby InnocuousDiatribe » Tue Mar 27, 2012 10:27 pm

C.J. Roberts on giving an effective oral argument: --LinkRemoved--

Only 6 pages, worth a read.

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skw
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Re: Need some 1L oral argument encouragement/advice

Postby skw » Wed Mar 28, 2012 8:43 am

InnocuousDiatribe wrote:C.J. Roberts on giving an effective oral argument: --LinkRemoved--

Only 6 pages, worth a read.


This is great, thanks!

Geist13
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Re: Need some 1L oral argument encouragement/advice

Postby Geist13 » Wed Mar 28, 2012 10:41 am

skw wrote:1. We were advised by the moot court faculty adviser NOT to ask the court if they wanted to hear the facts, but just to start doing that section and wait to be interrupted. Expecting to be interrupted, I had not really prepared this section and ended up going on WAY too long with the facts. In a 10 minute argument, what is the approximate time you should allocate to facts (assuming you're not interrupted)?


That is correct. You don't ask the court questions during oral argument. This is not a back and forth dialogue. You give them your prepared argument, whether that includes lots of facts or not is up to you and what you think is needed to be persuasive. I certainly spent less than a minute on "facts." They know what the case is about (if they've read the briefs). You are an advocate, not a presenter. You have to show them why the law IS on your side, why the law SHOULD be on your side, and the adverse consequences resulting from the law siding with the other party. Don't dwell on "plaintiff did this, defendant did that" that's just wasted time.

skw wrote:2. I was told that it was difficult to tell which section of my presentation was which (e.g. impact statement, versus road-map, versus entry into actual argument). How should one ensure these sections are clearly differentiated?


It sounds like you're just trying to make your oral argument map onto the structure of your brief. I don't know, that sounds like a poor approach to me. They have your brief, it seems ineffective to just repeat it. When I did oral arguments (I did not do moot court, but I did win best oralist for my section), I emphasized my best arguments (in my case, why a statute should be interpreted a particular way) and explained the adverse consequences of following my opponent's approach (this is good because often the judges' questions will be pushing you on the other sides strengths, so you are already prepared for their questions and they segue nicely into and out of what you have already prepared).

skw wrote:3. I'm used to walking around when speaking, but I'm told you should stand at the podium, hands on podium and not move. Is that correct? Is hand movement OK while you talk? How much?


No you do not walk around. You do not wave your hands like a maniac. You can move your hands naturally, but you need to get some feed back on this. If its too much it can be distracting to the audience (the judges) and thus detracts from your persuasiveness.


If you want to check out some good and bad (some really bad) oral arguments just watch video feeds from the 9th Circuit.

http://www.ca9.uscourts.gov/media/

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skw
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Re: Need some 1L oral argument encouragement/advice

Postby skw » Wed Mar 28, 2012 11:06 am

Geist13 wrote:
skw wrote:1. We were advised by the moot court faculty adviser NOT to ask the court if they wanted to hear the facts, but just to start doing that section and wait to be interrupted. Expecting to be interrupted, I had not really prepared this section and ended up going on WAY too long with the facts. In a 10 minute argument, what is the approximate time you should allocate to facts (assuming you're not interrupted)?


That is correct. You don't ask the court questions during oral argument. This is not a back and forth dialogue. You give them your prepared argument, whether that includes lots of facts or not is up to you and what you think is needed to be persuasive. I certainly spent less than a minute on "facts." They know what the case is about (if they've read the briefs). You are an advocate, not a presenter. You have to show them why the law IS on your side, why the law SHOULD be on your side, and the adverse consequences resulting from the law siding with the other party. Don't dwell on "plaintiff did this, defendant did that" that's just wasted time.

skw wrote:2. I was told that it was difficult to tell which section of my presentation was which (e.g. impact statement, versus road-map, versus entry into actual argument). How should one ensure these sections are clearly differentiated?


It sounds like you're just trying to make your oral argument map onto the structure of your brief. I don't know, that sounds like a poor approach to me. They have your brief, it seems ineffective to just repeat it. When I did oral arguments (I did not do moot court, but I did win best oralist for my section), I emphasized my best arguments (in my case, why a statute should be interpreted a particular way) and explained the adverse consequences of following my opponent's approach (this is good because often the judges' questions will be pushing you on the other sides strengths, so you are already prepared for their questions and they segue nicely into and out of what you have already prepared).

skw wrote:3. I'm used to walking around when speaking, but I'm told you should stand at the podium, hands on podium and not move. Is that correct? Is hand movement OK while you talk? How much?


No you do not walk around. You do not wave your hands like a maniac. You can move your hands naturally, but you need to get some feed back on this. If its too much it can be distracting to the audience (the judges) and thus detracts from your persuasiveness.


If you want to check out some good and bad (some really bad) oral arguments just watch video feeds from the 9th Circuit.

http://www.ca9.uscourts.gov/media/



Thanks a lot for the detailed answer. It is very helpful -- I'm beginning to feel better about this...

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bns_77
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Re: Need some 1L oral argument encouragement/advice

Postby bns_77 » Wed Mar 28, 2012 11:52 am

Gamecubesupreme wrote:Best advice I've heard was to talk to the judges as if you are speaking to grade school children.

A lot of the times, they will not be nearly as well-versed on the topic as you, so the slower and more careful you are in your answers to their questions, the better you will come off as an oral advocate.

Of course, that only really applies to moot court situations.

In real life, half of the advice for moot court goes out the window.


Here's a stellar article by Prof. Lessig of Harvard, breaking down his loss in Eldred v. Aschcroft, the copyright case.

Addressing oral argument and where pure reason fails, he states,

As I read back over the transcript from that argument in October, I can see a hundred places where the answers could have taken the conversation in different directions, where the truth about the harm that this unchecked power will cause could have been made clear to this court. Kennedy in good faith wanted to be shown. I, idiotically, corrected his question. Souter in good faith wanted to be shown the First Amendment harms. I, like a math teacher, reframed the question to make the logical point. I had shown them how they could strike down this law of Congress if they wanted to. There were a hundred places where I could have helped them want to, yet my stubbornness, my refusal to give in, stopped me. I have stood before hundreds of audiences trying to persuade; I have used passion in that effort to persuade; but I refused to stand before this audience and try to persuade with the passion I had used elsewhere. It was not the basis on which a court should decide the issue.


http://www.legalaffairs.org/issues/Marc ... rapr04.msp

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jessuf
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Re: Need some 1L oral argument encouragement/advice

Postby jessuf » Wed Mar 28, 2012 7:18 pm

I am no expert. Just based on how my school teaches students to do things:

skw wrote:1. We were advised by the moot court faculty adviser NOT to ask the court if they wanted to hear the facts, but just to start doing that section and wait to be interrupted. Expecting to be interrupted, I had not really prepared this section and ended up going on WAY too long with the facts. In a 10 minute argument, what is the approximate time you should allocate to facts (assuming you're not interrupted)?


You only want to bring up your key facts. You don't need to tell the whole story. At my school, we don't relate the facts - the facts are woven into the different points of the argument, thus it's hard to do a time estimate. However, like someone earlier said, pick your strongest arguments, as well as the best facts to back up your strongest arguments.

skw wrote:2. I was told that it was difficult to tell which section of my presentation was which (e.g. impact statement, versus road-map, versus entry into actual argument). How should one ensure these sections are clearly differentiated?


I think telling the judge each time you're transitioning is really helpful for them in terms of understanding your argument and your points. You could do something like, "May it please the court. My name is ___________. And I represent the appellant. I respectfully request one minute for rebuttal. [Catchy theme or policy sentence that weaves in critical facts of case – sentence or two]. Therefore, appellant respectfully requests that this court ___________ for [1,2,3] reasons. First, first reason. Second, second reason. Third, third reason. Turning to my first point:... [Begin argument]."

If each point has sub-points, then at the beginning of the point, say that. If you're first arguing that your client established a prima facie case, then say the elements of the prima facie case so that the judge knows to expect to hear your arguments for the disputed elements.

If you get interrupted with a question during your argument, to transition back, you could do, "Yes (or no). [Answer question]. Returning to my first point..."

Often times, questions will cause you to do your argument points out of order, so be prepared for that. Also be prepared to bring up a point that was skipped because the judge immediately asked you to talk about your second point.

For the conclusion, you could just transition by simply saying, "In conclusion, for the reasons above, blah blah + ask for relief again."

skw wrote:3. I'm used to walking around when speaking, but I'm told you should stand at the podium, hands on podium and not move. Is that correct? Is hand movement OK while you talk? How much?


You're not supposed to ever move your hands. I love using my words when I speak, but judges hate hands waving around because it's distracting. Just keep them on the podium and articulate with your face and tone.

skw wrote:4. Any general advice on things that work for you is also appreciated.

Make sure you have an awesome folder with you with an outline, list of facts, holdings, reasonings of your cases, possible counterarguments of your opponent and your rebuttal if you're appellant, and facts from your case with cites to the record. Also have a copy of the record that is tabbed with all of your key facts so you can reference them quickly if need be. Memorize your introduction. Watch your time. Model your argument after your point headings but focus on your strongest arguments and key facts.

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skw
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Re: Need some 1L oral argument encouragement/advice

Postby skw » Sun Apr 01, 2012 9:18 pm

Jessuf wrote:I am no expert. Just based on how my school teaches students to do things:

skw wrote:1. We were advised by the moot court faculty adviser NOT to ask the court if they wanted to hear the facts, but just to start doing that section and wait to be interrupted. Expecting to be interrupted, I had not really prepared this section and ended up going on WAY too long with the facts. In a 10 minute argument, what is the approximate time you should allocate to facts (assuming you're not interrupted)?


You only want to bring up your key facts. You don't need to tell the whole story. At my school, we don't relate the facts - the facts are woven into the different points of the argument, thus it's hard to do a time estimate. However, like someone earlier said, pick your strongest arguments, as well as the best facts to back up your strongest arguments.

skw wrote:2. I was told that it was difficult to tell which section of my presentation was which (e.g. impact statement, versus road-map, versus entry into actual argument). How should one ensure these sections are clearly differentiated?


I think telling the judge each time you're transitioning is really helpful for them in terms of understanding your argument and your points. You could do something like, "May it please the court. My name is ___________. And I represent the appellant. I respectfully request one minute for rebuttal. [Catchy theme or policy sentence that weaves in critical facts of case – sentence or two]. Therefore, appellant respectfully requests that this court ___________ for [1,2,3] reasons. First, first reason. Second, second reason. Third, third reason. Turning to my first point:... [Begin argument]."

If each point has sub-points, then at the beginning of the point, say that. If you're first arguing that your client established a prima facie case, then say the elements of the prima facie case so that the judge knows to expect to hear your arguments for the disputed elements.

If you get interrupted with a question during your argument, to transition back, you could do, "Yes (or no). [Answer question]. Returning to my first point..."

Often times, questions will cause you to do your argument points out of order, so be prepared for that. Also be prepared to bring up a point that was skipped because the judge immediately asked you to talk about your second point.

For the conclusion, you could just transition by simply saying, "In conclusion, for the reasons above, blah blah + ask for relief again."

skw wrote:3. I'm used to walking around when speaking, but I'm told you should stand at the podium, hands on podium and not move. Is that correct? Is hand movement OK while you talk? How much?


You're not supposed to ever move your hands. I love using my words when I speak, but judges hate hands waving around because it's distracting. Just keep them on the podium and articulate with your face and tone.

skw wrote:4. Any general advice on things that work for you is also appreciated.

Make sure you have an awesome folder with you with an outline, list of facts, holdings, reasonings of your cases, possible counterarguments of your opponent and your rebuttal if you're appellant, and facts from your case with cites to the record. Also have a copy of the record that is tabbed with all of your key facts so you can reference them quickly if need be. Memorize your introduction. Watch your time. Model your argument after your point headings but focus on your strongest arguments and key facts.


This is very helpful, thank you:-)

blong4133
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Re: Need some 1L oral argument encouragement/advice

Postby blong4133 » Sun Apr 01, 2012 10:15 pm

skw wrote:I participated in my school's moot court competition (round 1) last night and did not do very well. I felt like my arguments went OK, but clearly since I didn't make it to the 2nd round, I need to improve. I'm not worried about not making moot court because my goal is to do journal instead. I participated to get some practice before our graded oral arguments for our writing class next week. Anyhow, I'd like to share the few points of criticism the judges (1 2L for each of 2 argument rounds) provided and appreciate any feedback or advice others on the forum might have to help me improve prior to my graded argument next week. For some color, I spent the last 12 years selling enterprise technology (e.g. multimillion dollar transactions). I am not normally nervous in front of groups and have spoken to rooms full of C-level and high ranking execs without the slightest anxiety. For some reason, right before my oral argument, I felt very nervous, and I think that impacted my performance...I hesitated when I normally would not -- my voice wasn't very steady, etc. Anyhow, here it is:

1. We were advised by the moot court faculty adviser NOT to ask the court if they wanted to hear the facts, but just to start doing that section and wait to be interrupted. Expecting to be interrupted, I had not really prepared this section and ended up going on WAY too long with the facts. In a 10 minute argument, what is the approximate time you should allocate to facts (assuming you're not interrupted)?

2. I was told that it was difficult to tell which section of my presentation was which (e.g. impact statement, versus road-map, versus entry into actual argument). How should one ensure these sections are clearly differentiated?

3. I'm used to walking around when speaking, but I'm told you should stand at the podium, hands on podium and not move. Is that correct? Is hand movement OK while you talk? How much?

4. Any general advice on things that work for you is also appreciated.

Thanks very much to anyone willing to share their thoughts.


Like some of the others have said, read "making your case." We were required to read it for our legal writing class (although I read it when it came out after I had decided I was going to law school). but to directly answer your questions:
1) The facts should be a brief as possible. The only purpose of the facts are to give context to your argument. IF you think about it, judges should be familiar with the facts of your case during an argument from a practical standpoint (assuming they read the brief). So just give a quick rundown to provide context. I try to keep it under a minute.

2)The easiest way to do this is to add a little intro sentence. And for your road map, if you can, it's easiest (at least for me) to tell the judges what you're going to discuss by breaking it into however many points. "______ is entitled to a preliminary injunction for 3 reasons. First.......Second......Third..... Then something as simple as "which brings me to my first point," or something along those lines. Sometimes I'll phrase the points as questions, but it depends.

3)For purposes of grades, yes that is correct. And hand movement is ok, but don't do it a lot. Use it strategically such as when you're discussing the most important aspects of your argument. You just don't want to make it constant because that becomes distracting. When I did my first argument, I did the hands on the podium thing, and would straighten my fingers and do this little pivot move with my hands constantly. The judges told me that after a few minutes, they were paying attention to my hands more than they were to what I was saying.

4) Decide on your outline and stick to it. don't make changes unless absolutely necessary, and memorize it. You should never read while you're doing an oral argument. Looking down occasionally to make sure you're still in line is fine, but don't read.

Make eye contact with the judges.

Sound like you're passionate about the topic.

Don't mention a case unless you know what court it's from and sometimes what year it was decided.

Stay slow and enunciate. Don't mumble, and don't speed up and slow down. Keep your argument at a steady pace the entire time. this will prevent you from stumbling and stuttering.

If a judge tries to get you off of your outline by asking you a question that pertains to something else in your argument, answer the question and get back to your outline.

When a judge says something, shut up, and wait 1-2 seconds after the judge has stopped before responding. That gives you time to gather your thoughts before answering, and makes sure the judge is done talking so you are not speaking while he/she is.

Like someone else said, have a folder with all of your info in it. I try to keep my outline confined to no more than two pages, and then underneath the pages, I have a list of all the cases and a brief statement of the holding in case a judge asks about a case with which I'm not familiar. I put them behind my outline, and if asked, I slide the paper my outline is on over, quickly read the holding then answer the question. It should be seamless and almost appear as though you've simply glanced at your outline. Organize the cases in alphabetical order so that you can find them quickly.

Feed the judges ego. If a judge asks a question, and you have an opportunity to point out something they said, do it. For example, something like "as Justice so and so suggested/said" etc. And if you are arguing the respondent's side, if you can weave some of the things the petitioner's side said into your argument, that will also get you some points.

If on rebuttal, tell the judges real quick how many points you have. "Your Honors, I have 2 points i'd like to address."

These are just my ypersonal suggestions, and what I've learned from my professors. Different teachers may want something different. I've always been told to ask if the judges want the facts, so just an example of that difference.

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Lasers
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Re: Need some 1L oral argument encouragement/advice

Postby Lasers » Sun Apr 01, 2012 11:28 pm

TTH wrote:Sweep the leg.

i enjoyed that.

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skw
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Re: Need some 1L oral argument encouragement/advice

Postby skw » Thu Apr 05, 2012 11:17 am

I just finished my oral argument and it went really well -- better than I thought was possible. The judges said it was one of the best they've heard and their only criticism was that I could move my hands a bit more. They said substance, pacing, response to questions, deference, etc. were spot on. Thank you so much to each TLSer who took time to reply and provide advice. This helped me immensely and I appreciate you all offering your input. Hopefully this thread will help others in the future as well.

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magicbunny
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Re: Need some 1L oral argument encouragement/advice

Postby magicbunny » Sun Apr 08, 2012 10:03 pm

skw wrote:I just finished my oral argument and it went really well -- better than I thought was possible. The judges said it was one of the best they've heard and their only criticism was that I could move my hands a bit more. They said substance, pacing, response to questions, deference, etc. were spot on. Thank you so much to each TLSer who took time to reply and provide advice. This helped me immensely and I appreciate you all offering your input. Hopefully this thread will help others in the future as well.


Congrats! I learned so much from the thread too :)




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