New Zealand Law Society - Advocacy: The tools of the trade – The UK Bar Manual on Advocacy

Advocacy: The tools of the trade – The UK Bar Manual on Advocacy

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Cover of Advocacy 18th edition

Reviewed by Garry Williams

One of the first things I did when I arrived in London in late 1997 was to search out the antiquarian legal bookshop Wildy & Sons.

Given the rich pickings of things to see and do in London this might seem an odd thing for someone in their mid-20s to do, but I wanted (or rather needed) to for two reasons.

First, I desperately wanted to see Lincoln’s Inn and Wildy & Son was (and remains) located in Lincoln’s Inn Archway just off Carey Street. But more importantly, I wanted to lay my hands on a second-hand copy of Bullen & Leake’s Precedents of Pleadings. I had found this volume so useful in my formative years at Russell McVeagh that I wanted my own copy to hand as I started out in London.

Going to Wildy & Sons would mean that I could achieve both these things in a single afternoon, so I set off.

Inside, I went upstairs where an extensive range of second-hand books lined the walls. It was an impressive sight. In the middle of the room was an old-fashioned card catalogue system which listed, so I was told, every title that that had passed through the store since 1930. I now understand that this self-same card catalogue system has been extremely useful to the Bodleian Law Library in Oxford in assisting it to catalogue early works on English law.

“I’ll pay around £60”

I approached a member of the staff, John, and enquired whether they had a copy of Bullen & Leake, adding that I only wanted to pay around £60 for it.

I still remember his exact response: “Sir will not be able to acquire that title at that price”.

He then checked the card catalogue system and informed me that, in any event, they currently did not have a copy. Before I left, he helpfully asked if I would like to put my name down “in case they were able to find one”. I gave him my details and went downstairs to leave.

Downstairs was where the new legal titles were on display. Amongst the new titles in the window of the shop was a book simply entitled Advocacy. However, it was clearly part of a set, as it was surrounded by similarly formatted volumes with titles like Evidence, Remedies, Case Preparation and Drafting. In all, there were 14 volumes in the set.

What were these?

On closer inspection, it became apparent that these were the Inns of Court School of Law Bar Manuals – in essence, these were the course materials used by those undertaking the Bar Vocational course; the year-long course those training to be a barrister had to pass before being able to undertake a pupillage.

Pure gold

I flicked through the volume entitled Advocacy. It contained pure gold. Its price was staggeringly low – £19.99. I bought it. In fact, I purchased most of the volumes in the set there and then. I have never regretted doing so and have referred to them frequently during the last 20 years.

So why are they so good?

The answer is simple: they provide an extremely useful resource to assist acquiring the skills and knowledge that practising barristers need.

Given how useful I have found these manuals over the years, I was pleased to recently see the ADLS Inc Bookshop in Auckland advertise for sale the 18th edition of the Advocacy volume I bought so long ago.

Its price is still staggeringly low given the value of its content, $95.23 + GST for non-ADLS Inc members and $85.71 + GST for ADLS members.

When I saw it on the bookshop’s shelves I thought to myself that I should probably write a brief review of it to draw attention to the “pure gold” that resides between its covers. So I have.

This is how the Advocacy volume is described by Oxford University Press: “Written by experienced advocates and advocacy trainers, Advocacy provides an excellent introduction to the skills and techniques required to be an advocate. Coverage includes guidance on making opening and closing speeches, planning and delivering examination-in-chief and cross-examination, questioning witnesses; as well as examples of specific questioning techniques which may be employed in practice. Additionally, the authors highlight the ethical boundaries and rules within which an advocate must work.”

This pithy description belies the breadth and usefulness of the content of the 18th edition of Advocacy.

Six parts

A quick perusal of the contents page reveals that the volume is broken down into six parts.

Part I is introductory in nature and focuses on the qualities of the advocate; and ethics, etiquette, and cross-cultural communication in the courtroom.

Part II outlines the basic components required for successful applications and submissions. It addresses topics such as preparing for court and the actual content necessary to produce persuasive applications and submissions. The importance of structure is emphasised. Tips for an engaging delivery are detailed. The chapter in this part entitled “Persuasion” is particularly enlightening.

Part III is entitled “Preparing for advocacy” and includes very helpful material relating to voice and speech, memory and recall, note-taking and modes of address. This part ends with chapters on “storytelling” and which explain the sequencing of criminal and civil trials.

Part IV contains two chapters, entitled “Opening speeches” and “Closing speeches”. These chapters outline in detail the basic purpose of such speeches, the elements they should contain and tips on how to structure them. The suggested “Do’s and Don’ts” are a must read and the checklists provided are also very useful.

Part V relates to witness handling. Basic questioning skills are outlined, together with techniques designed to ensure witness control. This part ends with chapters dedicated to examination in chief, cross examination and re-examination.

Part VI is particularly useful as it consists of “how-to-do-it guides”. Among these are ones relating to:

  • Skeleton arguments;
  • Default judgments;
  • Summary judgments;
  • Applying for an injunction;
  • Applying for costs in a civil case;
  • Remands/adjournments;
  • Bail applications;
  • Conducting a voir dire or ‘trial within a trial’;
  • Making a submission of no case to answer in a criminal case; and
  • Prosecuting a plea in mitigation.

This brief description of the content of Advocacy does not do it justice, but you get the idea. Advocacy contains within its 392 pages an extensive range of tools and features that those intending to practice at the Bar need.

Quite simply, if you want to be a competent advocate or to improve on the skills in this area that you may already have, buy and read Advocacy edited by Robert McPeake, Oxford University Press, 2017. Then re-read it. You won’t regret it.

Oh, by the way, a few days after I first went to Wildy & Sons, I received a call from John. He had found me a copy of Bullen & Leake. He was right, however – I wasn’t going to get it for less than £60; he charged me twice that.

The Wildy & Sons website may be found at

Garry Williams is a barrister at Auckland’s Richmond Chambers. He accepts instruction in most areas of civil litigation and has particular expertise in

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