Tell us about your first experience as a lawyer before the U.S. Supreme Court

New York appellate attorney Joshua Rosenkranz of Orrick reflects on the first time he appeared before the U.S. Supreme Court.

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So I’ll never forget. It actually changed the way I practice law. It changed the way I prepare for cases of all sort. So the case was a case called Merck v. Integra, which was enormous stakes for the pharmaceutical industry. And I will never forget. So, by that point, I’d argued maybe over 100 appeals, and every single appeal in the days leading up to it and in the morning of, I would get the butterflies in my stomach. You know that feeling that when you thought about the case six hours in advance, your heart would start beating. And I said to myself that that was my edge, that the day that I stopped feeling those butterflies, feeling complacent, not getting the cottonmouth when I’m standing up there, is the day that I’ve lost my edge ’cause it means I don’t care.

So 8:00 AM the morning of the argument – the arguments are at 10:00 – I remember thinking, “Something’s wrong. I’m not feeling nervous. Something’s really wrong.” At 9:15 I was beginning to panic because I was so calm, and I never got the butterflies and I never got the cottonmouth because I was so comfortable. And I started thinking about why that was – my first Supreme Court argument. That should have been the most nerve wracking case of my career, especially with the stakes being so high.

And when I thought back on it, I realized it’s because I was so intensely well-prepared. I mean I had literally scripted several hundred questions that I might get and the one sentence answer, and if I get three sentences, the three sentence answer or the five sentence answer. And I had practiced it so many times – both by myself, talking to myself, and then in moot court sessions – that I knew no one would ask me a question I hadn’t prepared for. And since then I’ve prepared for every case the way I prepared for that Supreme Court case. And since then I’ve never been nervous the morning of an argument.