written by NITA guest blogger, the Honorable Nancy Vaidik. Judge Vadik is the co-author, alongside communications expert Rebecca Diaz-Bonilla, of NITA’s newest publication Point Well Made.
I prepare extensively for hearings. The clients of the attorneys who appear before me deserve it. Every time I hear an oral argument, I hold my breath to see if the lawyers are also prepared. Often times, they are not.
After years of practice and years on the bench, I know the hardest preparation involves drilling down to the essence of an argument. This drilling down is called theme creation. Themes are memorable, focused, and connect the argument to the judge. Good themes take work to develop. For example, when arguing that the plaintiff lacks standing, Bob Dylan’s quote, “If you ain’t got nothing, you got nothing to lose,” tells me what we are here to discuss and why you should win.
If there is a secret message to those who dare speak in a motion hearing or any other oral argument, it is “better bring a theme with you.”
Here are some simple steps to developing a theme:
1. Distill the argument into a one-line summary;
2. Find a creative way to word it;
3. Practice synonymous ways to repeat it so it doesn’t become stale.
Delivering a well-crafted theme forces the judge to remember. Delivering a well-crafted theme forces the judge to focus. Delivering a well-crafted theme instantly connects the judge to the argument. If you’re reading this and you want to start creating themes, welcome to the world of winning.
NITA’s team of practicing lawyers, professors and judges from around the nation dedicates its efforts to the training and development of skilled and ethical legal advocates to improve the adversarial justice system.
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