Advocacy is the means by which a barrister puts their client’s case to the court, and may be both written and oral. It is a specialist skill, the quality and excellence of which distinguishes the Bar from other providers of legal services. It is in the interests of the public, the court and the profession that barristers present their cases to the highest possible standards.
Oral advocacy is primarily a performance skill. It requires the advocate to address the court persuasively and concisely, presenting their cases in a manner which is clear, well organised and efficient.
Key advocacy skills include case analysis, use of skeleton arguments, oral submissions, examinations-in-chief and cross-examination, pleas in mitigation and legal submissions.
What is Advocacy Training?
Formal advocacy training is a relatively recent discipline: for many years it was assumed that advocacy skills could be learnt by example and observation, rather than being taught as a formal discipline.
Structured advocacy training in the UK has been developed over the past twelve years, drawing on the systematic six-stage method devised by Professor George Hampel QC of the Australian Bar. The method requires Pupil barristers and New Practitioners to perform as advocates in a simulated courtroom environment, within a strict time-frame and supported by a student/trainer ratio of at least 6:2. Advocacy trainers - who will be highly experienced practitioners trained in advocacy teaching – observe the performance, and then use a 6 step procedure to identify and remedy a particular problem with the performance. This incremental and structured approach helps to address the difficulties faced by a trainee seeking to absorb constructive criticism when under stress.
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What are the various advocacy training stages for Barristers?
There are currently four ‘levels’ of training for the Bar and three of these stages include advocacy training as a compulsory element:
1 Vocational Stage of Training: Advocacy is one of six skills taught and assessed on the Bar Professional Training Course. It is delivered through small group sessions across a range of civil and criminal scenarios and each student will undertake at least 12 (15 minute) advocacy practice sessions. Advocacy is taught more than any other skill and is assessed through written and oral assessments.
2 Pupillage Training: Pupils are required to undertake 12 hours of compulsory advocacy training with their Inn or Circuit, in their first six months of pupillage (i.e..: prior to exercising rights of audience in court). The aim of this training is to prepare pupils for appearing in court and pupils’ performance during training is continuously assessed against prescribed criteria (the “Dutton criteria”). Only if a proper standard is achieved will a Certificate of Competence in Advocacy be awarded; without this, a barrister cannot offer legal services as such and exercise rights of audience. See Documentation relating to the assessment of pupillage.
3 New Practitioner Training: during the first three years of practice, barristers must undertake nine hours of compulsory advocacy training with their Inn or Circuit.
4 Established Practitioner Training: After the first three years of practice, barristers are required to undertake 12 hours of CPD each year. There is currently no requirement as to advocacy training at this stage but active consideration is being given by the profession to introducing a compulsory advocacy training requirement for those of 4 -6 years’ Call.
At each of the stages which include advocacy training as a compulsory element, trainers employ the Hampel Method as the training tool.