It is surprising a book of this kind has not been published before. The court experience that a novice advocate receives during pupillage varies considerably in quantity and quality, so that the first months of exposure to a tribunal of law can be famously painful.
Noel Shaw's text is not a legal treatise; instead, it is a thoroughly practical guide to the essential skills of courtroom etiquette and case conduct.
Effective Advocacy assumes a basic knowledge of the relevant law and devotes many of its pages to the conduct of criminal proceedings in the lower courts.
It is assumed that the techniques developed in that forum (which will be meat and drink for most junior advocates in their early years) will hold good for the development of any contentious practice, however distinguished. The final chapter deals with civil hearings, cross-referring to the earlier passages where appropriate.
The essential disciplines of case analysis and management of the lay client are set out clearly and simply so the reader can, as Shaw anticipates, "follow the recipe faithfully for perfect results every time".
He uses a formulaic approach in steering the novice through often-encountered tactical and practical obstacles: identifying hearsay; when to allow opposing counsel to lead evidence; dealing with a stipendiary magistrate rather than a lay bench; whether to open "high" (in detail) or "low" (in outline); whether to seek to cross-examine on record; and how to plan a closing speech.
Although the experienced advocate deals easily with these areas, inadvertent mishandling can betray inexperience to the detriment of the case regardless of its true merits.
There is no single book that will produce a great advocate, but there are plenty that deal with the subject of great advocacy – although these are not likely to be of much practical use to the beginner.
Shaw holds that it is possible to become an "effective" advocate by learning and applying a fairly straightforward methodology. This will allow newcomers to build an individual style in their own time without being hindered by unnecessary anxiety and confusion.
Effective Advocacy will be an invaluable vade mecum for pupils, junior tenants and licensed advocates alike.