What is an appellate oral argument?

Oral argument, when granted, is the one chance to address the appellate court face-to-face. It is nothing like a trial court hearing, where the conversation is driven by the attorney. Appellate oral argument is a legal discussion between the attorneys, driven by the panel of judges deciding the appeal.


Oral argument is granted when the panel of appellate judges seeks answers to certain questions to probe the issues presented. The conversation is driven by the panel of judges. Experienced appellate counsel will reply with direct answers, through which he argues his case. Naturally, many of the questions will strike at the weaknesses of your case.


Effective oral argument preparation involves mastering the transcript, the applicable law, and anticipating the possible questions. Those questions often involve how the issues posed on appeal fit into the general body of law.


Appellate oral argument is not about the lawyer driving the conversation, as done in the trial court. Oral argument would not have been scheduled if the panel did not have specific concerns to be addressed. Failing to address the panel's concerns at oral argument is unproductive. Experienced appellate counsel knows what the panel seeks and provides them with answers in the light most favorable to their client.


More answers to frequently ask questions about appeals are available on this website. If you have additional questions, or are ready to proceed with your appeal, call Appellate Attorney William Driscoll at 978-846-5184.