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Friday, May 22, 2020

The Devil's Advocate

Title: The Devil’s Advocate: A spry polemic on how to be seriously good in court
Author: Iain Morley

What does it take to argue a case in court? Is it a ‘born-talent’, or can it be learnt? Is studying the law, and knowing it, enough to win a case? Advocacy is an art, not science: says Iain Morley, and it is to be honed through practice of litigation, like a skill that one is passionate about, learning and bettering oneself with every case. 
“And by ‘practise’, with an ‘s’, I mean the verb for getting up and repeatedly doing a thing until you get good at it – note the different spelling from ‘practice’, with a ‘c’, which is the verb for carrying out a profession.” 
The book is called The Devil's Advocate because it may make you see advocacy from a new perspective. It makes you see what makes a difference in court, and what makes a difference in how you think while looking at a case. The book is majorly from the perspective of countries that follow an adversarial system of justice, like India. In such a system, the fight is about whether a set of proofs find a particular person as guilty or not guilty. Going to the bottom of the truth is not kept as the ultimate aim, and our courts only try to draw that much truth that they perceive from the available evidence. 

So, for an advocate in such a system it is all about the test of the evidence adduced and how to control the evidence that emerges in court, and not necessarily the truth. Perhaps it should not be like this, but in reality this is what happens. Therefore, advocacy in an adversarial system is all about using ‘persuasiveness’ to win within these rules. Somewhere inside us a voice might say: perhaps it shouldn't be. But it is. And, the advocate’s goal is to win.
"Every advocate is a salesperson, selling a client's story."
Iain Morley, very precisely and in a way that doesn’t exhaust you but still makes you think, has designed his book in small capsules of thought-provoking interpolations on truth, the psychology of the tribunal, the poise of an advocate, persuasiveness, questions in a case, witnesses, examinations and cross-examinations, the closing speech, and many other such key factors. The book seeks to make you think on those aspects rather than force any lesson on you. As Morley puts it:
“You won't agree with everything you read. Good. At least you are thinking. Thinking about advocacy. About what works and what does not. And why.”
It is a great book, and the best part is the format in which it takes you through the outlines of advocacy. The book recommends itself to any lawyer with 0-5 years of experience, and that’s why it’s a great book for law students-irrespective of whether you are considering litigation as a career or not. I think it’s one that stimulates a certain kind of thinking in the readers familiar with the law. 

I loved the book! I especially loved the chapters on persuasiveness and cross-examinations. And, I think I might go back to it at several points later, just to skim through and keep the ‘thinking’ alive!

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