Law School Oral Argument Tips
Do you have oral arguments coming up in law school? Oral arguments can be intimidating to everyone – even those fairly comfortable with public speaking (and most of us aren’t!).
Below are some oral argument tips that might help you increase your law school oral argument grade (and your confidence!).
Law School Oral Argument Tips
Even if you are not. A lot of it isn’t about what you say. It is about how you say it. The good news is, once you get the ball rolling of pretending to be confident (even when you are not) it is easy (and even fun) to “fake it until you make it”. Although nobody enjoys videotaping themselves, taping yourself can be a good way to see if you are doing anything that makes you appear unconfident — such as shoulder-shrugging or saying things like “um” or “like” too much. Getting rid of these nervous habits can help you not only appear more confident, but it can also help you be more confident.
Start with your strongest point.
Don’t save the best for last (you may never get there — especially if you are interrupted by the judges!). This is not an essay – it is an argument. Instead of trying to connect all of the dots, keep it simple and say your strongest point first.
If the judges ask you a question, listen carefully and answer it directly.
Don’t beat around the bush or try to answer a question they didn’t ask (at worst, you will be called out on it; at best, you will look evasive!). Instead, listen carefully to the question asked and answer it directly.
Practice ahead of time.
You will not be able to anticipate every question asked but practicing will make you more confident and comfortable. It will help you answer the questions asked and it will help you say case names, party names, and your arguments clearly and concisely. It will also help you build confidence. Don’t shy away from practice or put it off! Practice the beginning and the ending until you have them memorized. This will help you start and end strongly. It will also help you go into your argument more confidently. Set aside some time every day to work on your oral argument.
Don’t be afraid of silence.
There is no need to rush into speaking if you have not thought about what you are going to say or how you are going to answer the question asked. Instead, it is okay to take a few seconds to think about what you are going to say before answering the question asked. It makes you look more reflective and intelligent — and indeed will give you time to respond in a more reflective and intelligent manner.
Keep it in perspective.
One last tip is to keep your law school oral argument in perspective. How is it graded? Is it a pass/fail grade? Are they going to grade you primarily on preparation, presentation, or something else? The reason we are saying this is because it is easy to get very wrapped up in a law school oral argument and spend all of your time on it –- when in reality, finals are just a few months (or weeks!) away. Of course it is important to prepare and take your best shot at it – but remember it is just one of several tasks ahead of you! Don’t neglect everything else which is probably worth more in the long run!
Looking to read more?
To read more public speaking tips, read our public speaking tips for law students and lawyers here!