Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Expert tips on excellent oral advocacy

SCOTUS Justice Scalia and Bryan Garner, Black's Law Dictionary EIC and President of LawProse, offered the following advice to those interested in improving their advocacy skills:  "practice, practice, practice." Both were plenary speakers during last week's National Legal Malpractice Conference sponsored by the ABA's Standing Committee on Lawyer's Professional Responsibility.

Among the other bits of advice was this:

According to Garner, few judges are being convincingly persuaded. “There is a crisis in advocacy,” he said.  Scalia countered, “I am always amazed at the quality of advocacy at the court.” “I keep reminding him that the advocacy is quite advanced by the time lawyers are before the Supreme Court,” said on-stage foil Garner.

While the level of advocacy at the highest court was reported to be, generally, of top quality, Scalia and Garner both offered common sense tips about preparation and practice that can escape even the most seasoned lawyer.

The speakers agreed that oral argument is an art that takes time to refine.  Garner said that many lawyers do not have enough practice in public speaking and that every opportunity to speak in public is one that should be taken.  Scalia concurred, adding that a practiced public speaker will have “no ‘ums’ or ‘ers’” and will know how to modulate his voice.

In lockstep with practice is preparation.  Scalia said the more you can think about the key points of your case ahead of time throughout the day — even while getting ready to go to work or driving — the better equipped you will be to answer questions at oral argument.  This includes going over the entire record of the case in your mind and making notes to have in court.

Sound advice for students practicing for their 1L moot court arguments as well as experienced practitioners.

You can read a more detailed summary of the talk here courtesy of the ABA's media relations website.

Hat tip to Above the Law.

I am the scholarship dude.

(jbl)

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Comments

It seems there must be something missing after Justice Scalia in the opening sentence. "Black's Law Dictionary EIC and President of LawProse," without more, have seldom been that influential in offering advice on advocacy skills. Now Bryan Garner is an influential voice.

Posted by: Jerry E. Stephens | Apr 21, 2010 5:11:33 AM

Thanks for pointing that out. Somehow I missed it but the sentence has now been corrected.

Cheers!

Jim.

Posted by: Jim | Apr 21, 2010 4:01:18 PM

Garner said that many lawyers do not have enough practice in public speaking and that every opportunity to speak in public is one that should be taken.
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Posted by: globaleworld | Apr 23, 2010 1:58:58 AM

Scalia said the more you can think about the key points of your case ahead of time throughout the day.
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Posted by: globaleworld | Apr 23, 2010 2:00:55 AM

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