Edward Marshall Hall KC was a master manipulator of his own legend long before the advent of social media. He was also one of the most powerful advocates of all time.
When he was called to the bar in 1883, women were not allowed to sit on juries and defendants were not allowed to give evidence in their own defence. Punishments included flogging, hard labour and hanging. Marshall Hall saved more people from the gallows than any other barrister in history.
His power of persuasion was such that juries often collapsed in court and judges were reduced to tears. His every word was reported in the press and thousands gathered at the courts to await the verdicts in the trials in which he starred.
He led a far from blameless life and embarked on countless affairs. Such was his impact that some of his high-profile defences helped shape the thinking of the time and eventually led to reform of the law of diminished responsibility, provocation and infanticide.
£25, Wildy, Simmonds & Hill Publishing
This latest biography by Sally Smith QC maps the ups and downs of his life and career, and shows how his own experiences and personal losses helped develop his understanding of human nature and enabled him to get into the minds of a jury.
Despite his great skills, he made errors of judgement. This left him open to attack by the press and the judiciary, who were not slow to exact revenge for his extravagant performances.
This a must-read for anyone who wants to learn about the pressures facing a criminal advocate and the stamina needed to succeed.
A fascinating book that should hold any reader in its grip.
Philip Noble is a barrister at Thomas More Chambers, Lincoln’s Inn