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An empty podium at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. (Photo: Jason Doiy/ALM)

Oral arguments before federal appellate panels are where marquee partners at the nation’s top firms make their clients’ cases, cement their reputations and earn their four-figure billing rates.

But with oral argument increasingly falling out of favor with most federal appellate courts, the opportunities to stand up in court and plead a case are lessening. The most recent year statistics available from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts—the 12-month period ending Sep., 30, 2017—had just 6,913 arguments out of the 34,561 appeals decided on the merits. That 20 percent is a far cry from the 27.3 percent of all cases a decade ago (8,662 arguments heard), and an even more steep decline from the 40.1 percent of cases (10,357 arguments heard) just 20 years ago—when oral argument data became available from the Administrative Office.

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