April 1, 2004

You Belong in a Courtroom

I had oral arguments tonight. One of the judges had parked at the same garage as me, so we walked together. She asked about my summer plans and looked surprised when I told her I'd be doing mainly patent work.

But, You belong in a courtroom, she smiled and winked.

And oh, how glorious it felt to believe her.

Because I was pretty good tonight. Not great. But good. And I knew it. It was definitely not the best public speaking I've ever done. My opponent won the judges' hearts with his passion but I earned the nodding appreciation of their brains when I pointed out the flaws in his case analysis and reasoning. And that's enough for me. Particularly when I'm arguing about something about which I don't care. [laugh] The Chief Justice commented that she liked my calm, professional manner. Clearly, I didn't care enough. I've never managed to attain a calm professional manner in any oral argument in my life before tonight.

The biggest two lessons from this evening were:

1. Regardless of how unprepared your opponent has been, never doubt that they may just pull it together and impress the hell out of you.

2. Each member of the panel has their mind made up before you start to speak. Your best points will be appreciated by those who appreciate your position. But to change minds... now that's the thing I haven't figured out. It's not a smart enough thing. It's not a passionate enough thing because if you're passionate against their side, they think you're crazy. So, how do you do it? Or can you, even?

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