Winter 2021, Vol. 40 No. 1
© 2020 by the American Bar Association. Reproduced with permission. All rig hts reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be
copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent
of the American Bar Association.
December 17, 2020
Five Tips for Oral Argument
Use your oral argument time wisely and be a good advocate.
By Shaunta Knibb
Oral argument is an important aspect of an appeal. It is your opportunity to educate a panel
of three judges about the key issues on appeal and to answer any questions or doubts that
the judges may have. Here are five tips for an effective oral argument.
Tip No. 1: Do Not Waive Rebuttal Time in Advance
Although you may think you know your opponent’s arguments and plan to address them in
your presentation, a judge may ask a question that you can address favorably for your
client. Use rebuttal time to do this. You can also use rebuttal to address any misstatements
by counsel or the court.
However, be professional and courteous to the court and the opposing counsel. If you
disagree with a statement of counsel, be respectful in your manner of correction, and then
Tip No. 2: Do Not Read Your Brief to the Court
Reading from your brief should be unnecessary. Focus on the key legal issues and engage
the court. The court is not there to listen to a speech.
Tip No. 3: Know Your Panel
Once you learn who will be on your panel of judges, research their style at oral argument so
that you can be prepared. Be prepared for questions, and practice how to address pointed
questions in the best manner possible for your client. Ask your colleagues to assist by
participating in a mock oral argument.