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The Devil’s Advocate – Review

The Devil’s Advocate – Review

Whether or not you have a natural propensity for public speaking, we could all benefit from helpful assistance when trying to cultivate the verbal dexterity to break any cocksure Rumpole-type with a few quick tongue lashings. While mooting and debating offer invaluable practical experience, having the opportunity to leisurely reflect on your existing skills – focussing on any specific areas which you need to improve – is a vital part of self-development for any aspiring legal practitioner. It is no surprise then that The Devil’s Advocate remains a popular title with law students, junior barristers and those with a general interest in debate alike. This compact guide, covering topics such as case preparation, opening speeches and tribunal psychology, cleverly bridges the gap between the theoretical understanding of advocacy and its practical application in a way that is both engaging and inspirational.

From the outset author Iain Morley QC – a distinguished criminal law barrister at 23 Essex Street – explains that this ‘is not a reasoned academic text. It is a polemic…it tells it as it is’, which summarises the function The Devil’s Advocate serves perfectly. This book is devoid of dense intellectual theorising that seems as divorced from reality as Heather Mills is from Paul McCartney, but rather it is teeming with pragmatic advice, guidance and analysis of the relevant skills needed to become an aficionado of persuasion.

Providing tips on how to address the judge, witnesses, cross-examination (where the general rule is simply ‘DON’T DO IT’), closing speeches, mitigation and advocacy in international criminal courts, the potential for self-improvement is centralised at all times in a constructive and easily digestible manner. Lengthy rumination and navel-gazing is not encouraged because, put simply, it wastes time. Crucially, this book dispels the myth that courtroom etiquette can be gleaned from popular legal dramas, and instead equips you with the knowledge needed to improve immediately as you start to read.

Morley’s first-person narrative style is humorous, with his generous use of rhetorical questions, sharing of the anecdotal, incorporation of lively examples and overall conversational tone making the reading process in itself interactive and thought-provoking, rather than uncompromisingly prescriptive. The writing is clear and accessible, the ideas effortlessly absorbed and, ultimately, easily modified as part of your own unique style.

Pocket-sized and comprising just 271 pages, The Devil’s Advocate takes up little room on the shelf. However, the briefest flick through the tiny volume indicates that the need for user-friendly and effective presentation was prioritised over the most efficient use of physical space, with great success. The liberal use of capitalisation, bold fonts, lists, short sentences, significant line-spacing and frequent page breaks are conducive to excellent communication and ensures that at no point does the reading process become overwhelming or tiring. The opening claim that it will take just three hours to read is in no way optimistic, and it can either be dipped into during a spare five minutes throughout the week or read in one sitting on a Sunday afternoon, without diminishing its positive impact.

The Devil’s Advocate both supplements vocational training and functions as an invaluable revision tool, with its efficacy as a reference guide unquestionable. Morley makes no grand promises, nor does he promote an outlandish or inimitable approach to advocacy. Instead, his work is captivating and provides, in no uncertain terms, the direction needed to succeed in court. Any new or conscientious advocate striving for excellence would be foolish not to read this absolute treasure.

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