I was interested to see the Focus article on advocacy training published in The Lawyer 13 August .
The College of Law strongly agrees that advocacy can be taught. We have found trainees making the same faults as those listed in your article and we have seen others which Michael Bowes no doubt also will have noticed.
In examination-in-chief, for instance, trainees tend to miss details and put questions in an illogical sequence. In cross-examination we have found that trainees ask too many questions based on value judgements rather than incontrovertible fact and they are also over-optimistic that a witness will agree with the advocate's case.
All of these faults, and those in Michael Bowes' article, are curable. Furthermore, we have found that if we can get the advocate to concentrate on the witness's answers, then in examination-in-chief the advocate can make sure that all the necessary evidence has been adduced; and in cross-examination the answers can very often be turned back and used against the witnesses.
We have discovered that advocacy teaching can be effective as a result of developing our own "method" two years ago. We have used it successfully for teaching the professional skills course advocacy module on standard courses and in-house courses for City firms and consortiums. It has been a very effective proving ground for forthcoming courses such as the higher rights of audience qualification.
The method of "learning by doing" and then picking up on points and explaining them clearly with examples really does work. It gets trainees and qualified staff to a high level of competence very quickly. It is hard work for all concerned, but the rewards are there.
Head of advocacy
The College of Law.