There is a large literature on the art of asking questions. This is not surprising. In the eyes of the popular culture and much of the legal profession itself, it is with the rapier thrust of one carefully orchestrated question that the adversary can be obliterated and the case can be won. Through devastating cross-examinations, Perry Mason managed to force the real killer to confess, right on the witness stand and before the hour was up.

Having sat as a trial judge for 13 years, however, I have come to the firm conviction that the focus on cross-examination has obscured the importance of another critical, less sexy advocacy skill: the art of answering questions from a judge or other decision-maker. Day in and day out, it is the advocate’s ability to answer questions effectively and persuasively, not ask them, that is likely to have a major impact on trials, appellate arguments, administrative proceedings, negotiations, pretrial conferences and the like. This skill cuts across all areas of practice and deserves more attention than it has received.

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