Since 2014 I have been based at the Royal Courts of Justice (London, UK) and I have had the privilege of seeing and hearing some of the best advocates in the country. I also work with Law students to organise monthly moots/mock trials.
Whenever I speak to a current LLB/GDL student, I always get asked the same question:
“What makes a good Advocate?”
My advice may vary depending on what type of student I am addressing, but here are five simple tips I have learnt from my days in Court:
1.Introductions are everything.
The first person to stand up in Court (Counsel for the Claimant or Counsel for the Prosecution) should always introduce himself or herself to the Court. There is nothing worse than not knowing who is addressing the Court. An introduction should be concise and convey each person’s identity clearly.
An example would be:
“May it please Your Honour, in this matter I appear on behalf of the Prosecution, with my learned friend Mr Bloggs, alongside Ms Bloggs…”
2. Divide your roles.
This is a tip for law students or anyone participating in mooting or a mock trial. During one of my moots, the Defence seem undecided on who would be doing the closing statement, and two students ended up addressing the Court!
This is not advisable. When working as part of a team, ensure that each member of the team has a role and there is no overlap. Divide the roles between the team members but do not tell the Court who is doing what – this should be clear from your delivery.
3. Your opponent is ALWAYS your ‘Learned Friend’. (See point one)
Advocacy is intellectual theatre. Remember the formalities involved and do not break from the obligatory phrases.
4. Always have a sit down line.
It can be a little difficult closing your speech after speaking for a long period of time. Whether it is opening submissions or closing submissions, always have a sit down line – something that follows on naturally from your statement but allows you to rest.
An example would be:
“Unless your honour has something I can assist with, those are my submissions.”
5. Be aware of your volume.
This cannot be emphasised enough. Regardless of which Court you are before, or even if you are doing a moot, the courtroom is going to be quite large. Depending on Courtroom, you may have the luxury of microphones and audio equipment, but always project. You should also be aware of those listening to your submissions. You do not know whether the Judge or any of the parties have hearing impediments, so ensure that you are clear.
Whether you are already in practice, or training to become a Barrister/Solicitor Advocate, you should be constantly perfecting your courtroom craft. Of course there are numerous things you can do to be a better lawyer, but here are just five simple tips which if practiced, will improve your presentation in Court.
Part 2 coming soon!
About the Author:
Stephanie Solomon is a Law Graduate from London, UK. She read her Law (LLB) and a Masters in Law (Criminal Law and Criminal Justice) at the University of Sussex, and currently works for the Ministry of Justice. Her interests include youth studies, crime theories, law reform, and diversity within the law. She writes, teaches and presents legal issues online and in person. For more information, please check out her LinkedIn page: https://uk.linkedin.com/in/stephanie-solomon-52449270
Photo credit – www.bbc.co.uk