I have my first (phone) conference with a judge tomorrow. I know the case and our arguments well, but my biggest worry is how to get back on track when the judge interrupts and changes course. Any suggestions? I’m a new attorney so feeling very overwhelmed!

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3 main things from my former litigation life experience:
1. Prep prep prep then trust yourself. You know the answers and you can make any question work as a chance to provide your strongest points.
2. Listen fully to the judge when they are asking a question- do not try to stick to your prior point or ignore the main things the judge is asking for. Whenever I was interrupted I would just drop my hand to the point (or mark with a pen) I was about to make so as not to lose my place but forget everything else and listen to the judges question.
3. Take a breath and give yourself a few seconds to respond. You know the answer- it’s there in your head but you need to actually give yourself a second to overcome the adrenaline hurtle and get there. Trust me- the silence is not as long as you think.

And yes- this will get so much easier the more you do it!

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Yeah, answer the question asked. One of the quickest ways to piss off a judge is to go through your own spiel irrespective of what the court wants you to address.

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Keep in mind that the judge’s questions actually matter a lot more than the points you came in thinking you need to make. The judge is telling you what he’s struggling with, so that’s what you need to address.

Also pay careful attention to the questions the judge asks to the other side. If any of your canned points respond directly to the question the judge has already asked the other side, start there. “I want to begin with a question Your Honor asked to my colleague whether ___. The answer is ____.”

One way to prepare for hearings is writing out all of the potential (difficult) questions you may get and actually writing out talking points/your responses to these questions.

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Practice.

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Focus on your points. Know concessions that won’t hurt your claim but get straight to the point and defend your arguments with precise notes.

The judge will push back between areas to try to gain arguments for resolution if it’s at that stage of the lawsuit. They aren’t your enemy but they want to resolve the case/issues at hand

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Really good point to know concessions beforehand

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