What A Great Orator Can Teach Us About Advocacy: From the Honourable Justice Cromwell

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“Success consists of going from failure to failure without the loss of enthusiasm.” Winston Churchill

Tonight the Honourable Justice Thomas Cromwell spoke at the 9th Charles L. Dublin Lecture. He spoke about what makes a great orator. Specifically his qualities, his attitudes, and his work ethic.

  1. A great advocate has a reputation for candour and thoroughness. An advocate cannot be divorced from his substance.
  2. Respect for language. Words last forever. Precision is key. “The law is language.” Our arguments, our reasons for judgments, our statutes are expressed in words. The strength of our laws depend on our expression. A well reasoned argument promotes allegiance to the law. It turns the legal rule into an idea worth protecting. If our words fall into disrepute, then what will be its substitute?
  3. A strong work ethic is the foundation of success. For every minute of speech, Churchill worked one hour.
  4. Don’t waste a good opening. Don’t start with pleasantries. Capture the audience’s attention. Start right away with why your case matters. Why it demands the court’s attention.
  5. Use simple language. Churchill’s “Their Finest Hour” speech used mostly words with one syllable. The focus is the audience’s ease of understanding.
  6. Form matters. Sentence structure matters. Use memorable phrases that encapsulate  the case. Think of sound bites.
  7. Prune all the unnecessary details. The very definition of a great advocate is the ability to zero in on the key facts.
  8. Use rhetorical questions and repetition. But use them wisely.
  9. Lastly, elocution matters. “It brings triumph out of the jaws of defeat.”

 

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