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The Importance of an Advocate

Advocates come in many forms within the legal profession.   The hypothetical lawyer can be pictured as a smooth, dramatic and emotive character advocate like ‘The Castle’s Lawrence Hammill QC’ or a curmudgeonly ‘Horace Rumpole’ wading through hearings as a quirky presence. Whether it is a most senior Queens Counsel presenting a complex case to the High Court or a young local solicitor challenging a bail application, lawyers need to use strong advocacy on behalf of clients.   However these Court room characterizations often belie the true, requirements, skills and hard work of a legal team and the quiet ‘backroom’ preparation and advocacy occuring in the solicitor’s office.   Recent Victorian court decisions highlight the critical importance of this ‘backroom’ preparation to achieving effective and fair advocacy. The case of R v Chaouk [2013] VCS 48 was delayed because the defence Barrister was unsupported by instructing solicitors. His Honour Lasry found that the absence of a solicitor ‘substantially increase[d] the likelihood of errors being made or important matters being overlooked by counsel…’ His honour was of the view that ‘the trial of the accused is likely to be unfair’ and as such ordered the hearing be adjourned ‘until counsel… has the assistance of his instructing solicitor on a day to day basis…’[1]   This case highlights both the importance of support to advocates and skilful preparation.   Case Preparation The smooth and eloquent case presented in Court often follows a long process of silently chiselling away from a mass of fact and law gathered and reviewed within the solicitor’s office. Often unobserved work, weeding out the irrelevant, researching the law and checking facts, securing documentation (often strongly opposed with FOI skirmishes), it also requires everyday advocacy that is strong, prepared and skilful. The solicitor advocate manoeuvres opposition to advance or protect the client’s case. High quality work of this nature will alter how the court case is presented: identifying its strengths and weakness alike. There is a mosaic of careful and necessary work done by the solicitor alongside the barrister.   Selecting the Barrister Once the case is sufficiently clear and ordered, the solicitor is responsible for making a critical decision for their client – selecting the right barrister. The solicitor balances the client’s needs & finances with the complexity of the case, the jurisdiction of the hearing and the barrister’s experience and past success in cases of the same kind. Kellehers also looks at whether the barrister is likely to enjoy the case and be personally ‘fired up’ to echo the case preparation already completed, working to do the very best and hopefully win, for the client.   Although the court advocate tends to receive the attention and accolades of success, the often unseen work done in meticulous and painstaking, case preparation is the make or break for success in every case. Kellehers prides itself on its proven ability to prepare a specialist brief to barristers, ensuring they are fully supported to allow them to traverse the court drama, ‘shining’ on behalf of our clients.  

[1] R v Chaouk [2013] VCS 48 at 46-47   Copyright © Kellehers Australia 2013 This blog post is intended only to provide a summary and general overview on matters of interest. It does not constitute legal advice. You should always seek legal and other professional advice which takes account of your individual circumstances.