Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Supreme Court Advocacy Institute Helps Lawyers Prepare For Their Big Day In Court

The Globe and Mail features an article in today's paper about the Supreme Court Advocacy Institute, an organization that puts together mock sessions to help lawyers who are about to appear in front of the Supreme Court of Canada.

The Institute organized mock court hearings for 20 percent of all the cases heard last year by Canada's highest court, according to the newspaper. Some of Canada's top litigators volunteer their time to act as judges:

"Like musicologists discussing a classical composition, the 'judges' then take apart a lawyer's arguments and suggest where they may fall flat, distract the judges or try their patience. They also pepper counsel with tough questions, ruthlessly cut off submissions, and even adopt the idiosyncrasies of particular Supreme Court judges."

"Each session is followed by a candid, down-to-earth critique of what worked, didn't work, or just plain bombed - a process that can be as useful to veterans as it is to Supreme Court novices."
The best part of the article is the list of "rules of engagement", or recommendations for how to behave in front of the Justices of the Supreme Court:

  • First impressions are important
  • Avoid talking over the heads of judges who lack background in a particular field
  • All questions from the bench must be answered
  • Not responding at all is better than obfuscating
  • Steer clear of eliciting sympathy for a client or arguing the facts of a case
  • Don't become bogged down in a debate with a single, feisty judge
  • Maintain eye contact with all nine judges, and always try to locate the one who has posed a question
  • The Supreme Court can and will refashion existing law, but it does it in modest, incremental moves
  • Judges do not like being talked down to

Earlier Library Boy posts on the program include:

  • Training Program To Prep Lawyers For Supreme Court (February 6, 2007): "The executive director of Institute explained that 'subjecting novice counsel to the exhilarating, intimidating reality of a top-court hearing will have significant benefits for both novice lawyers and Supreme Court judges who are frequently frustrated by naive or unfocused advocacy'. The Institute will be funded entirely by law firms and law societies. It will have no official ties to the real Supreme Court of Canada."
  • More on Supreme Court Advocacy Training Program (February 11, 2007): "...the program is open to all counsel, not only first-timers; it is available both to the private Bar and government counsel; (...); the program helps counsel prepare for an actual appeal; it is free; the Institute is independent of any private or government organization, and non-partisan; (...); the program is national and bilingual..."
  • Supreme Court Advocacy Institute Launches Website (February 28, 2007)

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 1:36 pm

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