In his foreword, Iain Morley QC describes this book as a good idea. It certainly is – and if advocates new and old were to take on board even a handful of the tips, courts would be better places. Given the usual price of legal texts, it is refreshing that the publishers have taken a realistic view, since this book could be condensed into a very slim volume. Perhaps, therefore, it will be more widely read and adopted.
Split into 10 sections, the book targets the core principles of advocacy from preparation through cross-examination to further reading. Although not specifically targeted at new practitioners, the book would benefit most those new to advocacy, or those who have missed out on a well-rounded pupillage. Many of the points are basic (amounting to an observation contained in a single sentence); some are repeated (I counted at least three separate references to arriving at court early). Nevertheless, like a properly constructed submission there is no harm in being reminded of the central pillars of good advocacy.
Of particular use are tips described through acronyms, which are not new, but there is no harm in the message being reinforced. Even if the reader disagrees with Leslie Cuthbert’s ideas and viewpoint, this must mean the reader has taken on board another’s experience and considered why they disagree.
This book is not designed to be prescriptive; rather, it is thought-provoking. If the upshot of the book is that stock phrases such ‘I put it to you…’ (see tip 81), or ‘I am going to suggest…’ go the way of the dodo, and more intelligent ways to put your case are adopted, the book will have served a useful purpose.
The book lacks an index, though some may conclude that an index for such a book is unnecessary.
While more established practitioners may doubt the value of the book, they may still find it a useful volume to dip into. Frankly, it would be only the most conceited individual who did not learn something useful. Tedious trials are made more interesting by seeing how often others fall foul of the advice, which if anything may prevent the reader from making the same mistake. This reviewer’s favourite tip is 86: ‘Restrain your own emotions as an advocate. Seek instead to adopt a posture of respectful intellectual equality with the judge.’ Worth remembering.
Author: Leslie Cuthbert
Publisher: Bloomsbury Professional, £19.99
Robert Bryan is a barrister at Drystone Chambers, Bedford Row, London