It was a long-held doctrine in law that advocacy was a skill that could not be learned nor taught and that lawyers who wished to practice as advocates would develop this expertise through experience, scope and opportunity. Then, by osmosis, a well-crafted advocate would emerge.
The actuality is that although lessons can be learned through experience, it is often at the expense of the client. And moreover, without a set of disciplines to adhere to, bad habits can be formed and retained without question.
Since the 1970s the Australian Advocacy Institute established by Professor The Hon. George Hampel AM QC, has endeavoured to improve the skills of advocacy and provide the training to do so. It is hard to imagine a more qualified teacher of advocacy and that showed throughout the day.
Almost without exception (there was one) the lawyers had nominated advocacy training as something that they wanted to pursue. So, on Saturday from 9am – 5pm all 11 lawyers from Doogue & O’Brien along with representatives from other ADLA firms Armstrong Legal of NSW and Caldicott & Co of South Australia, participated in an Advocacy course.
There was also a preliminary session on Wednesday evening dealing with the theory of plea-making.
Facilitated by Professor The Hon. George Hampel AM QC, County Court Judge Felicity Hampel SC and Michael O’Connell SC, the training focussed on skills and techniques as well as a practical component where all participants presented pleas for 3 separate case studies. We were then presented with feedback – positive and not-so-positive and suggested areas for improvement.
We had been provided the factual scenarios weeks before so there was an opportunity for everyone to prepare the materials and brush up on the relevant law.
And from all participants, whose experience ranged from just-admitted to 20-plus years in practice, the feedback was unanimously positive. After all, what harm could come from learning, new skills, honing learned ones and eschewing bad habits?
We will certainly return for further training and believe strongly that it should be a pre-requisite for lawyers handling certain levels of criminal cases. There is no downside to this type of training. It impels you to reflect on the way you practise and will improve your work.
It was fascinating getting insight from Judges about how they prefer a case be presented to them. Michael also gave great insight into how he as Senior Counsel would approach problems.
We strongly recommend that other Victorian firms encourage their lawyers to undertake this training. Any lawyer who wants to have a chat about it can give us a call.
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