Law Tips: Presenting Persuasively

In the courtroom and in life in general…being persuasive serves us well. And we could all use some brushing up on our methods from time to time.  Fortunately, Judge Martha Wentworth of the Indiana Tax Court has agreed to provide her illuminating perspectives on being persuasive for our Law Tips readers.

Judge Wentworth gets straight to the point by offering two strong tenants for success as an advocate in the courtroom, followed by specific ways to go about accomplishing these goals:

  • Give the Judge tools to find in your clients favor.
  • Present your case in a persuasive manner.


1. Citations to Law  e.g. Tax Court precedent; binding Supreme Court authority; statutes; authority from other jurisdictions with explanation why it applies.

2. Citations to the Record

3. Reasoned Analysis

  • Do not say “I believe” or “I think.”
  • Do not use hyperbolic adjectives/adverbs.
  • Do not be conclusory (fail to link result to reasons).
  • Do walk the Court through every element of your analysis. (This should be easy because you should have already done this at the Indiana Board or the Dept of Local Government Finance!)


1.Written & Oral argument should be succinct and organized

  • Do use headings to organize.
  • Do not write in a James Joycean literary style.
  • Do not read from your brief.
  • Do not ramble!

2. Own Your Argument

  • Know your case better than the Judge & opposing counsel.
  • Defuse the weaknesses of your own case before opposing counsel does.
  • Address the opposing party’s argument and explain why it fails.

3. Welcome Questions from the Bench

  • Do not jump the gun: Let the Judge ask the entire question before answering.
  • Do answer the question that is asked.
  • Questions reveal whether the Judge follows your reasoning and where the Judge disagrees.
  • Answers are the best opportunity to persuade!

4. Demonstrate Civility

  • Be polite.
  • Show respect for opposing counsel & the Court.
  • Express passion w/o inflammatory rhetoric, hyperbole, or extreme adjectives/adverbs.
  • Do not launch personal attacks.
  • Do not play the “blame game:” Own your own mistakes.

5. Be Genuine

  • Present the argument that you have come to believe in.
  • A disingenuous argument is transparent.

Are you clipping these judicial pointers to your desktop for reference as you prepare your next persuasive presentation? Couldn’t we use a few of these tips in our family situations as well?

During her “View from the Tax Court” presentation at our 13th Annual Property Tax Institute, Judge Wentworth expands on her valuable advice for accomplishing these objectives. You may want to take advantage of that instruction, as well as, the comprehensive CLE presented by our additional faculty by attending a Video Replay Seminar near where you work or live or by viewing our Online / On Demand Seminar available anytime anywhere, Click Here.


About our Law Tips Faculty Member:
Judge Martha Blood Wentworth received her law degree awarded cum laude (J.D. 1990) from Indiana University in Bloomington. Thereafter, she began her legal career as judicial law clerk to Judge Fisher at the Indiana Tax Court. Judge Wentworth was appointed by Governor Mitch Daniels to succeed the state’s first Tax Court judge, the Honorable Thomas G. Fisher, upon his retirement in December, 2010. For more than 12 years immediately prior to her appointment, she was a Director at Deloitte Tax LLP where she led Deloitte’s Indiana Multistate Tax Services. Prior to joining Deloitte, she practiced law with the Indianapolis firm Hall, Render, Killian, Heath & Lyman, PC.

About our Law Tips blogger:
Nancy Hurley, Law Tips blogger, has long-standing connections with Indiana lawyers. She was formerly a member of the ISBA and IBF staffs for over 30 years. Nancy’s latest lifestyle venture is with ICLEF. We plan to utilize her exceptional writing and interviewing skills while exploring how her Indiana-lawyer background fits with ICLEF’s needs. When she isn’t ferreting out new topics for Law Tips, her work can be found in our Speaker Spotlight blogs, postings on the ICLEF Facebook page, Twittering and other places her legal experience lends itself.

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