Legal Tips

Tips for participants of oral argument and litigation skills

Participation in the litigation and debate skills or the preparation of oral argument for a case is an important part of the preparation in Law. If you have not had previous experience in discussions or speech, this can cause great stress to the participants. For this reason, we include some tips to prepare you for that important event.

oral argument

What is the best thing that an argumentative can do?

  • Have confidence. Even the best arguers are not perfect and not all cases are winning cases. However, presenting your argument with confidence, with clear voice and a sure tone, can make all the difference.
  • Get ready for all levels of knowledge in a judge. You will never know beforehand if you will post before a judge who read in passing the competition material or a judge who spent his last thirty years practicing the law which turns the argument. Learn to read the level of comfort of the judge with the material and adjust the detail or complexity of your argument accordingly. Persuasion is not always the art of having more details, it is about knowing your audience and adjusting the message to recipients.
  • Start with your strongest point instead of going little by little. Prepare your plot with a sketch and prepare to continue if you are not interrupted quickly. Prepare to articulate the topic in the first or second sentence.
  • When you are asked a question, answer it directly. If possible start with a yes or no, but if the answer requires a qualification to protect the client’s position, answer and continue immediately with that qualification.

What is the biggest mistake that can be made in an oral argument?

  • Show nerves
  • Be too formal
  • Start giving an answer before thinking about what to answer. Some lawyers are quick to give an answer for not having silence but then, in the middle of the answer, they change the course of their response. It is much better to wait a moment to make sure you know what to answer, instead of starting to answer without knowing.
  • The most serious error in oral argumentation is not listening carefully to the questions and therefore not addressing the concerns raised by the judges.
  • Never make a concession. You must be able to defend your terrain at all levels.

What is the best way to prepare for an oral argument?

  • Be comfortable with the record.
  • Be able to articulate the standard of review applicable to the presented questions. Anticipate questions about jurisdiction and know all available options that the judge has to solve.
  • Prepare the argument so that when it becomes apparent that a judge disagrees with his position on a point, it can be said that even if the court does not accept that premise, must still prevail.
  • Try to put yourself in the place of the judges and think what questions they would ask and work on short, clear and precise answers for all of them.
  • Investigate, investigate and investigate, then think about how to explain the case and its arguments in a convincing way.
  • Rehearse, rehearse and rehearse, practice aloud, feel comfortable with the way your argument sounds and tell the names of the parties, cases and applicable laws. Once you feel comfortable with the language of the case and with its details it will be easy to talk about it in a fluid way and without looking at the notes.

What does the draft of an arguer look like?

  • It should look short, with keywords and perhaps a phrase that you want to repeat.
  • No more than two pages, with annotations in a letter size 14 at least. The outline should be a support tool and the information should be easy to find.
  • You should be able to read your notes, so include keywords that remind you of other important points. However, you must know the case at the level that the notes are superfluous.

How much of the argument should I memorize?

  • Memorize the introduction so you can make contact with the judges. Memorize the last paragraph so that the end is perceived planned rather than a freshly crafted thought.
  • Get ready for any questions that could ask you. Although you will not be able to memorize the answers, you will have an idea of what to answer. Internalize the substance of those answers instead of memorizing the words so that you can form your argument and fit the questions that the judges could ask you.

During the argumentation

  • What is the most effective way to use the cases or the material provided?
  • Appoint the names of the cases only if (1) the legal rule is disputed and you are trying to convince the court that your version of the rule is correct or (2) you are making an analogy of a case to show the court by what you must prevail.
  • Study the case well and be prepared to answer all possible questions about the facts or what happened in the case. Do not recite the facts of the case in your argument, do so only if necessary in response to a question.
  • The cases are more persuasive when they directly support your point or when they are strong analogies to a point that is being made.
  • Remember that arguments are short because time is limited and spending too much time on quotations will take substance from your argument. It’s great to be well informed, but it’s bad to look pretentious.
  • Make sure you are aware of what they mean and represent.