Throughout law school and the BPTC, you will undoubtedly receive a lot of advice about advocacy. You’ll see advocacy demonstrations and will be lectured on the topic by master/mistresses of the moot, mooting coaches and guest lawyers and judges. If you’re especially keen, you’ll probably read books on mooting and advocacy such as The Devil’s Advocate , The Art of the Advocate or How to Moot: A Student Guide to Mooting. Through some of my following posts I will try to share some of the advice and tips that I have received over the past four years.
The tips that I have provided below are from an autobiography that I picked up from an antique/second-hand booksellers in Coventry during the summer of 2011 after graduating from University. It’s titled “Law and Life” by G Roberts KC OBE and was published in 1964. It details the life of one of the UK’s great Barristers, who went so far as to represent Great Britain at the Nuremberg Trials. In his memoirs, Roberts KC speaks of his long experience as a Barrister and provides many useful tips for budding lawyers.
His tips on advocacy may seem obvious but are easy to forget or overlook:
- Be Prepared – even on obscure facts/points of law
- Be Audible – Strong, Clear Voice
- Open with Care – In his opinion, burglary, housebreaking cases should be opened in about 3 sentences. The jury want to hear witnesses in such cases. If the case is regarding fraud, dishonest prospectuses, share-pushing, then a detailed opening is required to show how documents bear out submissions.
- Beware the disastrous question – A single misguided or inappropriate question can lose the case for the unfortunate client. Speak slowly and think carefully before asking questions.
- Leave Well Alone – A case can be lost when the advocate tries to “rub in” a good point already made. Such an issue can arise where, for instance, a favorable point has been made by a potentially hostile witness and you try to hammer the point too much. Its full effect may be diluted.
- Be Impersonal – Roberts KC amusingly said that an advocate should never talk about their own health in court. By this he meant that while in court, a Barrister should shed his personal skin and assume the role of professional counsel, thereby acting as the best advocate possible for their client.
In sum, he quoted Lord Somervell of Harrow and said “that the object of the advocate should be to persuade the court that his client has the best case though unfortunately not the best advocate”.