Saturday, 7 March 2009

Improving advocacy teaching?

Dr Manhattan's Edit: We can always do advocacy better. And I do love a well-placed semi-colon. I'm going to reflect on what's written below, and try to fashion a post (or possibly something bigger) on this subject for 2010.

The thing which I have found striking here is that the quotes that Elucubrator relies on to demonstrate effective structure are so very striking and persuasive not just becuase of the stylistic tricks but also because of the strength of conviction that we remember (or imagine) that the words were spoken with.

Is it possible to develop an oratory style which is both detached and sincere? Or is it only possible to convey one or the other as the occasion requires most?

Something to think about in the new year.

What do you think of our material on advocacy? I was never really happy with the chapters on Advocacy. To me, they focus on mechanical things that are really about protocol and procedure. So their only real relationship with 'advocacy' is to provide ways of not alienating the Bench by breaching accepted protocol.

But that is hardly a recipe for doing a good job of persuading.

I reckon there are three things we can focus on.

1. Effective voice use

I remember some stuff I read in the past about report writing referred to Style, Tone and Level. I think we can use something like that. The idea of 'level' is about appropriately addressing the intended audience. For example, I might direct a subordinate to do certain things, but request a superior to allow others.

2. Language and effective speaking

One of the successful techniques used by good advocates is subjunctive mood in their speech. (As opposed to imperative and indicative.) It's the failure to understand and use it which, in my observations, alienates the Bench to many junior prosecutors and new lawyers alike. I know most folks' eyes glaze over at discussions of grammar, but I still believe that in the Court room we must both know what we are doing and what is required, rather than hope to stumble across successful techniques. So much easier to learn it if we know the words to describe what we are doing! Subjunctive mood is closely related to the Level I mentioned above at point 1: it is an appropriate way to address the Bench, which is superior to the mere advocate.

Also, as I stumble across rhetorical terms, I think many techniques of formal rhetoric can be used to good effect. For example, asyndeton, meaning ommitting conjunctions between parts of a sentence. Churchill is one good example:

we shall fight on the beaches,
we shall fight on the landing grounds,
we shall fight in the fields and in the streets,
we shall fight in the hills;
we shall never surrender.

Caesar is another:

I came; I saw; I conquered.

Chiasmus is another: grammatical constructions or concepts repeated in reverse order.

A classic example of chiasmus is John F Kennedy:

ask not what your country can do for you;
ask what you can do for your country.

Another aspect of voice control is RSVP: rhythm, speed, volume, pitch.

It seems lower pitch conveys authority and credibility. High pitch — and the querulous Australian rising-inflection — can sound shrill and bombastic.

3. Psychology

The last thing we can do better is to formalise the importance of dissociation or emotional detachment.

Some advocates can't divide their sense of self from the role they take on. To criticise their argument, or their submission, is to criticise them.

The advocate's mantra, "Those are my instructions," captures that idea of what we strive to achieve: advocating for those we represent, without necessarily emotionally committing to the argument.

Can we do better? Would these things help? Or are we doing alright?

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