Tips and Tricks for Effective Advocacy

Now, I am not really a qualified person (yet!) to suggest tips and tricks for effective advocacy. But Iain Morley QC, barrister in a leading set of London criminal chambers, certainly is. His book “The Devil’s Advocate” is fun and provides a light read useful to anyone interested in practical tips for advocacy or, ignoring the strictly law-related references, for general public speaking.

While reading a book on advocacy may seem contradictory (isn’t advocacy the art of speaking?), there are nonetheless tips and tricks that can prove really helpful. Here are some that I particularly liked:

  1. The advocate must assist – not instruct – the court in its decision-making process. In other words, the tribunal has the power to decide. You don’t. No one likes being told what to do, so ensure that you are seen as someone helping out the court and not trynig to win a competition against it. Understand the tribunal’s psychology.
  2. Dress well and appropriately. Well, this one might seem obvious: you must appear formal and like you’re a winner.  However, understanding why is really useful: this goes back to understanding the tribunal’s psychology. if you wear too much colour or too much make up the tribunal will not appreciate it as it will give the impression you fancy yourself. Your clothes and appearance should not distract the court from its core purpose.
  3. Do not be afraid to occupy space in the courtroom. Don’t let your head sink into your chest, make sure your head is up to show you are attentive and in control. This is one of the hardest tips to follow, since it requires a great deal of self-confidence and good knowledge of your submission to avoid looking down to read your notes too frequently.
  4. Keep those hands still! This is my favourite tip: instead of moving your hands uncontrollably (annoying and counter-productive), furiously wiggle your toes. This will keep  you so busy that all the other parts of the body will stop fidgeting. I have personally tried this tip and I have found that it really helps (but make sure you don’t wiggle your toes so much as to lose balance on your feet!).
  5. Write the closing speech when you receive the brief. This will ensure that you know exactly what you want from each witness, although the draft speech should be flexible. According to Iain Morely QC, if you follow this tip, you will find witness handling much easier. I have yet to try this.
  6. Do not assume your judge knows all the law. It is fine to remind the judge of the law. Afterall, judges are humans not machines- they cannot know or remember everything in the law. This tip sounds very reasonable, but I cannot quite imagine myself remind a judge about the law. Somehow, I think I would always feel that the judge knows best. But it is something I will keep in mind while training.
  7. Do not be afraid of silence. This is a really good advice: silence creates tension, it allows to pause between one sentence and another, between one question to a witness and another. It shows you are in control. Most of us, while training, feel the need to fill every silence with sound – obtaining the awful result of saying a lot of unnecessary and annoying things such as “Urmm”, “Ehm”, “Right”, “Mmm”. We must learn not to do it! (note to self)
  8. Ask others what they think. This is difficult. Or rather, asking what others think may be easy, but actually listening and learning from their answers is hard. It’s not about bad intention, but about being human and finding it hard to really see the same problems others see. This week, when I watched the video of my advocacy submission, I was really surprised when noticing good and bad aspects of my submission which I had perceived entirely differently while performing. For example, the pauses I took between one sentence and another felt to me – at the time – like extremely long, and I feared they would look really bad on me. In the video, these pauses were actually hardly noticeable! On the other hand, during the submission I did not realise I appeared ‘too serious’ and this made me appear terribly insecure and nervous. Something to improve on!

This article does not intend to provide advice for advocacy or to provide an exhaustive review of the book written by Iain Morely QC, but only to highlight some aspects which – in the way I understood them – were useful and interesting to me.

If you’ve read the book, which tips did you find relevant to improve your advocacy?

I Remember / Mi ricordo

When he was a little boy, Filippo used to blush whenever the little girl with the red skirt looked out of the window. As a teenager, the thrill of going to the cinema with ‘her’ was as exciting as watching his favourite team winning the soccer championship.

(Source: Erika’s photos

The theatrical transposition of Aldo Nove’s book “Amore Mio Infinito”(My Infinite Love) follows the biographical novel’s approach of recalling through flashbacks the various episodes of an ordinary man’s love life.

The focus is love, but not love in an obvious, naïve or romantic fashion. Love is a concept explored through the witty eyes of a child who grows into a teenager and then a young adult. Love is funny and scary. Love is desired and rejected. Love is necessary yet fugacious.

Perhaps, the child’s journey in understanding the ‘game’ of love is a metaphor of his path in life: in the end, the adult will come to realise that there is no solution to understanding the game of love just as there is no right answer to the quest of the metaphysical understanding of life in general.

So, who better than a group of young talented actors could interpret a theatrical pièce centered on and dedicated to the world of children and of young people? The Tangram Theatre in Torino offered last night a beautiful interpretation of a play in two acts: the first act illustrating some excerpts from Aldo Nove’s novel, while the second part consisting in an experimental illustration of the actors’ own memories from childhood.

The red thread connecting the entire play was the playful yet serious exercise of remembering and recalling thoughts, feelings and emotions of the time before awareness (and, arguably, cynicism) typical of adult age have kicked in.

It was refreshing to see new and young faces focusing on small and big problems of childhood and youth, and, most of all, showing all of their liveliness and creativity through art.

My longstanding relationship with books

I love reading and I always have. I used to be a very very devoted reader as a kid. I think I possibly read most if not all of the classical books written for kids – Charles Dickens, Eleanor H. Porter (all the Pollyanna series – so girly!), Roald Dahl,  Little Women by Alcott, and many many more I can’t even remember!

It was not something imposed on me by family or someone else, I did it spontaneously and I loved it. It opened up my mind so much, it developed my imagination and it helped me to learn a wide range of vocabulary which turned out being very useful at school and in life in general. One of the best parts of reading was for me having the opportunity of discussing my opinions with my mum and grandmother. Without forcing me to, they both taught me how important it is to discuss your views on a reading with others because it is the best way to discover new points of view, to find out things you might have missed out on and to add even more depth to your understanding of the book.

As I grew older, when I turned a teenager, I still enjoyed reading a lot. I started reading also in English, as before I only read in Italian. It was hard at first, but then over time I improved my English and I learnt to enjoy my reading as much as in Italian. However, at school (it Italy) I was asked to read specific books which I did not enjoy. I later realised that it wasn’t so much that I did not enjoy the books I was asked to read, but rather that the amount of time I was forced to spend on them in order to write reviews, study for tests on them, answer long questionnaires made me really hate them. I sometimes think I should go back to these books, like the classic I Promessi Sposi by Alessandro Manzoni which all Italian teenagers read at school, so I can reread them at my own pace and appreciate them more spontaneously rather than because I am told to! It was during my school years that I started keeping a diary of the books I had read because I was worried I would forget about them over time…I still have it but I haven’t updated it for a long time. However, looking back to this diary, I saw that as teenager I read about 50 books per year!

Then came univesity…studying at university took away so much time and energies that I ended up putting aside my hobby of reading. This made me very sad often because I felt I was ‘betraying’ my love for books – do you understand what I mean? When you have little time to read, you end up reading bits and pieces of books and you never have time to really get into them to the point where you can really feel part of the story. Of course, this is a general statement because I still read many books although most of them for academic purposes. One of my favourite places to relax, during my university years in London were bookshops. Since being young, I have always loved the peace and quietness of bookshops. In a bookshop, I am able to pick any book I want and it doesn’t matter if I choose it because I’m attracted to it by its cover or its title or its position on the shelf.

Since my university years, I have had this problem of never having time or energies or quietness enough to read a book. Or else I not very often found books which I really felt passionate about. I have every now and then read some excellent books such as The Mascot by Mark Kurzem, The Kite Runner / A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson.

The worst thing about being stuck on books is that I end up with a pile of books on my bedside table which are started yet unfinished. When I have not finished a book, I feel like I do not want to start a new one until the other one is over. But of course this is a vicious circle, because the result is that I stop reading. I am now finishing a book which I have not enjoyed very much (L’ultima riga delle favole by Massimo Gramellini). I must say this is a bit of a struggle but I like the idea of the book so I do want to get to the end of it. I have really read most of it and part of the reason why I’m so slow now is that the story is basically over and I am not sure what else the author will be saying for the next 50 pages or so!

Does it ever happen to you that you have a book which you are struggling to finish but that is stopping you from starting a new one?

Book: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” by Stieg Larsson

This book is an exciting and capturing thriller taking place in Sweden. This novel will keep your heart beating fast from the first to the last page. Two mysteries are intertwined and developed at the same time.

There are three main characters. Lisbeth Salander is a young researcher and hacker who is very peculiar yet extremely intelligent. Mikael Blomkvist is an investigative and political journalist with a weakness for women. Finally, Henrik Vanger is a rich retired industrialist who used to be the head of the Vanger Corporation.

Henrik asks Mikael to find out what has happened to his niece who has disappeared from over twenty years. Mikael starts researching on the mystery of Harriet Vanger by moving to the little village of Hedeby. He calls in Lisbeth to help him with his work and together they go on to discover the terrible secret of the Vanger family.

At the same time, Mikael wants to find out more about Hans-Erik Wennerström, a corrupt industrialist who has won a claim against him for libel. With Lisbeth, Mikael will also uncover the mystery of Wennerström’s corrupt empire.

The end is only partly a conclusion to these mysteries, as there is already a hint to the next book of the Trilogy by Larsson….and, believe me, after reading this one, you won’t leave it to the first book for sure!