Published: Wed, 07 Mar 2018
Effective advocacy depends on two things; one is good preparation and the second is having persuasive oral communication skills.
By preparing thoroughly you will gain knowledge of both the facts in the case and also the relevant law. If you have thoroughly prepared then you will have the confidence to make an effective presentation. Be very familiar with the case by reading the file to ensure you are familiar with all of the facts. Ensure you have obtained all the evidence you require and explored all necessary avenues. Research the law to ensure you can back-up what you say and are confident that it is correct. For instance, if you need to make a bail application, you would need to be familiar with the Bail Act 1976 and be able to apply the facts of your case to the law. Preparation is therefore fundamental to successful advocacy. By going through all papers filed in the case and all of the evidence you will need to formulate your argument and decide what evidence to call and what evidence of the other side you need to attack or undermine. Careful planning will also allow you to establish which witnesses you need to call and the order in which they should be called to ensure that the witnesses are presented in an order that presents your theory of the case in the best possible way.
Have a Theory
You should have a theory of the case which is your version of the disputed facts. This will help you to formulate your argument and will help you decide what evidence you need to call. By having a theory it will help guide you through and will ensure you present your case effectively. Further, it will help you maintain a consistent and logical position throughout the case and will keep you focused. When formulating your theory for the case it is important that you do not do this too early in a case because if you do it too early you may discard alternative and stronger theories and ignore certain leads. Your theory should be close to the client’s account of events. It can also be useful if you consider what your opponent’s theory is likely to be as this will assist you in preparing for cross-examination.
2. What makes an Oral Presentation Persuasive?
There are certain qualities a good advocate will possess which will make their oral presentation persuasive. The student will find they will develop these through experience. The student should bear in mind the following factors as they will enhance their oral presentation and ensure it is persuasive:-
- Eye contact – By maintaining eye contact with your listener it will enhance your oral presentation. It will show you are confident and it will also allow you to assess the reaction your submission is having on your listener. For example, you will be able to see if the listener is becoming bored and, if they are, you will know you have to move on accordingly or change your stance. It will also allow you to see if you are losing their attention. In addition, by maintaining eye contact with the listener it will stop you from getting caught up in your notes and this will avoid your advocacy having a lack of authenticity.
- Voice – Before talking take a deep breath as this will help you to relax and it will enhance the sound of your voice. Do not talk too loudly or too aggressively, or be too softly spoken. Ensure you talk loud enough to be heard and talk clearly. Your delivery needs to be interesting. It may be useful to record yourself and then replay it in order that you can assess your delivery and this will help you improve.
- Pace – You will need to pace your submission correctly. It is important that you do not present what you say too slowly or too quickly. Do not read from a prepared script as you are more likely to read too quickly and as a result the listener will not be able to follow your argument. If you present your argument too slowly this can make your listener lose interest in what you are saying. In order to adopt the required pace again it is a useful idea to record yourself and replay it.
- Pause – This can be a very effective device when you are doing your presentation. You should use it for effect. For instance, if you believe the listener is no longer listening to you, pause and this will regain their attention because they will wonder why you have stopped. In addition, if you have a particularly telling point to advance, make the point and then pause. This will enable the listener to consider the point and will create more of an impact. It will also enhance the impact of your overall presentation.
- Posture – Stand up straight with your head slightly elevated. Do not slouch. By having the correct posture it will help you look more confident and having a good posture will enhance the quality of your voice and make you appear more relaxed.
- Distracting mannerisms – You may have distracting mannerisms but be unaware of what they are. It is worth recording yourself making an oral submission in order that you can consider whether your body language detracts from the message you are putting across. Distracting mannerisms could be, for example, fiddling with something in your pocket, clicking your pen, touching your face or hair. You may be doing these things subconsciously. When playing the recording consider whether you do any of these when making a submission and consider do you look relaxed and confident. You need to ensure that you do not have any mannerisms which distract from the message you are trying to put across.
- Structure – Ensure your presentation is structured and this will make it persuasive. When planning your presentation devise a structure. This will ensure you do not repeat anything. When preparing your submission ensure it has a beginning, middle and end. Keep your submission concise. Avoid reading out sections from statutes and case law. Instead, highlight the relevant part of the statute/case and hand them to the judge/bench to read and simply refer to them and summarise the key points of the case/statute.
- Brevity – Always try to keep your submission to the point. The court’s time is very precious. Through careful preparation and by having a logical structure in place will assist you in keeping your submission concise.
- Persona – As mentioned above, it is important that when you are appearing as an advocate that you look confident. Even though you will probably be very nervous, anxious and not very confident when first attending court, you must try to look confident. By dressing appropriately, in a smart suit, you will look the part and this will help with your confidence. Further, by looking the part the client will have confidence with you and you will convey the correct impression to the court. Remember that first impressions count. Be organised and this will help ensure your composure and professionalism come across.
- Language – Bear in mind that words can be a very powerful tool with which to covey a message. Carefully choose your words and consider whether there is a more powerful adjective which will advance the point you are trying to make. When making your submission try to use language which involves the listener. For example: ‘Sir, if I could refer you to the prepared map of the road. This identifies where the collision occurred’.
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