One of the most stressful moments of a hearing or argument comes when the judge looks up from her papers, clears her throat and says, “Counsel, I have a question.” This simple sentence can fluster new and experienced counsel alike, but the strategy for capable answers in the courtroom is simple. To deal effectively with questions from the bench, a lawyer must appreciate the queries for what they are, anticipate what questions may be asked and prepare truthful responses that advance the client’s position.

• Question = opportunity. Questions from the bench identify specific issues or problems that have drawn the court’s interest. Properly viewed, each question presents an opportunity to make the best argument possible about that issue with the assurance of having the court’s undivided attention. To take advantage of the opportunity, the lawyer must understand the question and answer it immediately, directly and with a minimal amount of fumbling.

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