Friday, January 24, 2014

"Counselor, are you reading your argument?"

That's the title of today's DJ article by H&L's David Axelrad about how to prepare for oral argument. He explains that "a prepared speech is never the way to go," citing SCOTUS rule 28.1. So, what to do?

"First, reread all the briefs, taking notes on the issues"; then "review the record and applicable law, highlighting particularly important references." "[U]pdate the law to check for recent developments," and voila, you now have a comprehensive outline. Now, "transform your arguments into effective sound bites" and identify major themes to emphasize. Next, "the winnowing process": condense your main point into a single sentence. Rehearsal is next. Eventually "you should be sufficiently familiar with your message to engage the court in a conversation that is not only immediately responsive to the court's questions, but which constantly brings the focus back to the major themes you want to communicate."

Also in the DJ this week: "Clear Beyond the Peradventure of a Doubt," Or, Plain English by SFSC Judge Curtis Karnow, who forcefully argues that "For both judges and lawyers, plain English is the secret ingredient for logical, powerful writing."