Written by Judge Ann D. Montgomery, United States District Court for the District of Minnesota
My change from an active status to a senior status judge has changed my perspective on trial practice in at least a couple of ways. It has given me a little more time to reflect nostalgically on the days when newer, less-experienced attorneys earned their sea legs in the courtroom by arguing motions. Secondly, senior status has emboldened me to do what I can to rectify the “stuff” that irritates me, and a good starting point might be oral argument on motions.
I get frustrated when it appears that the attorney arguing a motion may not be the lawyer in the courtroom with the most knowledge of the case. Frequently, a senior lawyer and junior lawyer will appear together on a motion, and the senior attorney will argue the case while the newer lawyer, who likely wrote the brief and is far more familiar with the case, watches from counsel table.
When this occurs, I have often been tempted—and now may no longer resist the temptation—to treat the lectern like a hockey face-off circle. I may toss the senior lawyer back to counsel table and direct the newer attorney to the lectern to argue the motion.
Admittedly, I do recognize that clients sometimes insist that the senior attorney argue their motion, but I also think it is important to give our next generation of lawyers more opportunities for oral argument. In an effort to balance these interests, one of my online “Practice Pointers” encourages parties to present a bifurcated oral argument in which a senior attorney presents one portion of the argument and an associate who has worked on the case presents the other portion . As an incentive to encourage its use, I am willing to allow parties additional time for oral argument. Counsel seeking permission to bifurcate oral argument should contact my courtroom deputy by telephone or email at least one week prior to the scheduled hearing date. Counsel are encouraged to contact opposing counsel, or the Court may do so, to determine whether their client would also like to present a bifurcated argument.
A handful of other federal judges throughout the country are making similar attempts to promote the professional development of young lawyers. For example, Senior District Judge Jack B. Weinstein from the Eastern District of New York has created an individual courtroom rule that states in part:
Opportunities to train young attorneys in oral advocacy are rare because of the decline of trials. Where junior lawyers are familiar with the matter under consideration, but have little experience arguing before a court, they should be encouraged to speak by the presiding judge and the law firms involved in the case. This court is amenable to permitting a number of lawyers to argue for one party if this creates an opportunity for a junior lawyer to participate.
In California, where oral argument is not routinely held and motions are often decided on the briefs, some judges, including District Judge James Donato in San Francisco, have issued standing or case-specific orders permitting oral argument on the condition that a junior lawyer present the argument. 
I encourage parties to take full advantage of the opportunity to present a bifurcated oral argument in my courtroom. In an era when oral argument is becoming a lost art, newer lawyers deserve a chance to hone this vital skill. In my experience, bifurcated oral argument produces positive benefits for all involved: new attorneys gain valuable oral argument experience, clients remain confident that their case is being handled with expertise, and I get to learn about the case from the lawyer who knows it best.
Whether I make good on my threat to toss counsel from the face-off circle surrounding the lectern will await further experience with the voluntary use of my suggested practice.
 Judge Ann D. Montgomery, Practice Pointers and Preferences, http://www.mnd.uscourts.gov/Judges/practice-pointers/ADM.pdf (last visited Feb. 7, 2018).
 See Alison Frankel, Judge Wanted 6th Year Associates to Argue Fitbit Motion, MoFo Lets Him Down, REUTERS (Sept. 23, 2016), http://blogs.reuters.com/alison‑frankel/2016/09/23/judge‑wanted‑6th‑year‑associates‑to‑argue‑fitbit‑motion‑mofo‑lets‑him‑down/.