A FURTHER TEN PIECES OF ADVICE FOR THE YOUNG, AND NOT SO YOUNG, LAWYER: AVOIDING THAT “SPECIAL RING IN HELL”
Continuing with the review of those series on this site which collate the guidance that judges have given to lawyers. In series three we looked at everything from going to hell; brevity (the absence of which leads you rapidly towards eternal damnation in some judge’s eyes) and the need to keep on learning your craft.
Lord Justice Irwin gives clear advice.
“The excessively long and complex skeleton argument is a curse. You know who you are. My clerk writes your name in the black book, held in the archive of the Junior Ganymede Club.”
“Then, there is a special ring in hell for the advocate who stands up at 10:31 with the words “My Lady, My Lords, I have prepared a Speaking Note which is on the bench”
This looks at the advice given by Fleur Kingham, President of the Land Court of Queensland.
“How you behave towards your colleagues in Court reveals much about your ethics and your professionalism. So too does the tone of your correspondence. The self-serving letter is rarely tactful and the motivation usually apparent. If your tone is discourteous and inflammatory, that will tend to reflect on you, not the person to whom it is addressed”
3. THERE IS NO MIRACULOUS OSMOTIC PROCESS BY WHICH YOUR TRIBUNAL WILL ABSORB EVERYTHING YOU HAVE PUT BEFORE IT
Here we looked at the work Judge Swami Raghaven in the Law Society Advocacy Section “Top tips for tribunal advocacy”.
“Don’t assume that the tribunal will by some miraculous osmotic process absorb all the materials and authorities you’ve put before it. You need to draw out the relevant facts that you’re inviting the tribunal to find from the evidence it has heard. When it comes to case law, you need to clearly articulate what legal propositions you’re asking the tribunal to draw.”
This was a few from a Bench Clerk in New Zealand, 20 points after spending 12 years watching advocates in action.
- ” Remember that someone is always watching you wherever you are in the building and word quickly gets around. It should not surprise you to know that the clerk in your court does discuss you with the Magistrate/Judge before they enter the court. Make sure that you leave a favourable impression, which leads me to tip #2.”
” Use your manners. With EVERYONE. Mind your Ps and Qs with court staff, police, other lawyers and most of all your clients.”
An excuse, really, to consider Stephen Sedley’s Law and the Whirligig of Time
“Any Advocate can get it right. It just takes application, learning and judgment. What requires inspiration and an occasional touch of genius is getting it hideously and irretrievably wrong: not just losing, which call advocates do half the time, but screwing up big time
This was review of a book by retired District Judge Neil Hickman. There are many choice quotes, one of my favourite is a question asked in a fast track trial.
“Are the contents of your statement true?”
“No – it’s what the man from the solicitors said I should say – but it isn’t true”.
(That turned out to be a very, very, short trial.)
Here we looked at an interview with Lady Justice Macur
When asked about common mistakes that advocates make Lady Macur states:
“I used to see an unfortunate trait in advocates of not asking questions of witnesses in an acceptable form, and dressing up quite long-winded statements of principle as a question by just tagging on at the end ‘do you agree’ or ‘isn’t that so’ etc. “
This was based on the speech by Lady Justice Rafferty to the Criminal Law Review Conference. One of the matters she spoke on was archaic syntax, the “passive voice”. She was in favour of brevity.
“In a skeleton argument I can read about the learned judge up to sixty times. Speaking entirely for myself life will still hold meaning for me if I am referred to as the judge not the learned judge.
This was a review of the guidance given by Federal Judge Richard G Kopf in his blog Hercules and the Umpire.
“It would be nice if you gave me a concise and accurate statement of the facts backed up by citations to the record and addressed to the elements of the case. The Court of Appeals does not give a rat’s ass about what I think of the law, but it does care (at least a little) what I think of the facts. Comprende?”
10. KEEP ON LEARNING
There are dozens (if not hundreds) of pearls of wisdom from these judges. I have to choose one to end this series. I am taking this from the interview with Lady Justice Macur.