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?

What I’ve Learnt from the Moot Court / Mock Trial


Ten days after the Moot Court, I can now sit back and think of what I’ve learnt from this experience.

1. I really enjoy legal advocacy.

I guess I knew it before, but the Moot Court has really made it clear to me that I love the thrill of legal speaking in public despite the amount of stress involved beforehand. The minutes before I had to stand before the judges, my heartbeat was truly amazing me. I felt like there was a horse race going on inside me! I guess this should lead me to conclude that I should not stress so much, however this is not really something I can entirely control. I am sure that with experience, this amount of stress will decrease. Yet, I strongly believe that the stress is partially what enhances the ability to put a lot of effort into legal advocacy and increases the chances of showing the court that you are really into the part.

2. Something unforeseen will always occur.

Despite being only a mock trial, it is nonetheless impossible to foresee exactly everything that will occur. This reflects well what happens in real trials, although surely they involve a way greater amount of unpredictable circumstances. Unforseen circumstances may play in favour or against you, you never know, but the trick is theoretically to always try your best to turn them into something positive for your case.

3. Competition rules.

At the end, legal advocacy whether it is for a real or a mock trial, cannot be simply described as a ‘game’. People turn extremely competitive and they will do just about anything necessary to prove they are better than you. In other words, the trial can turn on personal competition and establishing good relations between various parties would be extremely helpful (when possible). Everyone is – at different degrees – ruled by a desire to compete.

4. You experience the Moot Court through the lenses of your role.

Depending on what role you’re covering in the Moot Court / Mock Trial, you will experience it in a totally different way to your colleagues in different roles. In my case, I was Legal Representative of Victims and this meant being something in between the Prosecution and the Defence. In a way, I was supporting the Prosecution, however my role had a completely different focus. On another day, I acted as witness for another Moot Court and this gave me an entirely different perspective yet again. As a witness (even if not a real one), you feel like you’re under the spotlight while being examined by all parties and by the judges. Moreover, it is hard to realise if your answers to questions are helpful to one side or another (unless, of course, you know the legal case). I would recommend anyone pursuing the career of lawyer to attempt taking on the role of witness during mock trials, because you will really benefit from a useful and insightful experience.

4. The end of the Moot Court is a big relief.

No matter how much I enjoyed the Moot Court experience, I can’t deny that the end of it meant coming back to life! Yet I can’t wait to do it all over again and I am sure there is still a great deal to learn in the profession, which is a never-ending learning process.