Oral argument in court is one of the most important parts of any case.
Your arguments must be well thought out, relevant to the issues at hand, and compelling enough that you can way a judge or jury to your side.
While there are many ways you can prepare for oral argument in court, this guide will provide you with steps to get you ready so that you know you’ll make the strongest case possible when it’s time to argue your points in person.
1) Get organized
The best way to prepare for oral argument is by getting organized.
Getting prepared ahead of time will help you be confident and ready when you stand before the judge.
Create a list of what you want to say, which includes the facts of your case, any applicable law, and what you hope the judge will do.
Then create a list of questions that might be asked during your argument and have a few potential answers at hand.
Practice how you’ll answer these questions with someone who can give feedback on how well you’re answering them.
Be sure to bring your outline or notes with you so that it’s easy to find information during your argument .
It’s also important to have your facts straight so that you don’t misstate anything in front of the judge, no matter how small.
If there are people from your side who are speaking during oral arguments, make sure everyone has practiced their speeches beforehand and know exactly what they are going to say.
2) Know the facts
When preparing for oral argument, it is important that you know the facts of your case.
This will allow you to confidently answer any questions posed by the court.
Additionally, knowing the facts will help you with your oral argument because your understanding of the facts may lead you towards a certain line of reasoning during your presentation.
Be able to speak clearly and concisely: In order to argue effectively, it is crucial that you are able to articulate your thoughts.
To do this well, practice giving your oral argument before an audience so that you are more comfortable when speaking before the judge .
Speak slowly and pause after each sentence so that people have time to write down what you are saying.
Be sure not to read from your written arguments!
Keep eye contact:
It is difficult to argue while looking at notes or reading from a script because people lose focus on what they want to say or don’t listen closely enough.
By keeping eye contact, you show the court that you are confident about what you are saying.
3) Know the law
Oral arguments should be brief and succinct. You will have the opportunity to make your case and then you must sit down.
You are not able to call on any evidence or witnesses during oral arguments, so it is important that you know the law so that you can answer any questions asked of you as directly as possible.
Have a set strategy for what you want to convey and how you want to answer questions. Be prepared for objections from opposing counsel
– there may be some unexpected ones that catch you off guard, but knowing your rebuttal will give you an upper hand.
You should also anticipate getting emotional during your argument and understand that this is normal.
Emotions often come out during these moments because we feel like we are trying to fight for something good or defend against something bad; don’t allow those emotions to take over because it will hurt the outcome of your argument.
If you find yourself becoming too emotional, step back, collect yourself and continue after taking a breath before going on with the next sentence.
4) Understand the judge
A great way to prepare is by understanding the judge. It’s important to know how they like to hear arguments, whether they prefer a conversational or formal tone, and what their preferred method of note taking is.
Judges are usually very receptive when litigants take the time to learn about them ahead of time.
If you plan on speaking with the judge beforehand, it’s always best to send an email introducing yourself and detailing your argument so they can prepare.
If that fails too, there’s no shame in doing some research on judicial philosophies to get an idea of how the particular jurist may view your case.
5) Be prepared for questions
If you are not prepared, you may risk making a statement that could be used against you.
You should know your argument and understand the strengths and weaknesses of your position.
Be able to anticipate what kind of questions might be asked, as well as how you will respond.
You will want to come up with some possible responses ahead of time, and then practice those responses out loud until they sound natural.
It is also important to work on your speaking skills so that you can communicate effectively during oral arguments.
Practice with someone who knows about your case but does not have an opinion about it.
Ask them to ask you questions about different scenarios, so you can get feedback on how effective your arguments were.
It’s not uncommon to feel nervous and anxious before heading into court.
In fact, you might be so stressed that you’re not even able to eat or sleep. But it’s important to try and relax as much as possible.
Spend time with family and friends, do something fun, or simply take a walk.
It can also help if you write down what you want to say before the hearing so that your thoughts are organized when it’s time to present your case in front of the judge.