A litigation advocate is expected to represent a client in a civil or criminal trial to the utmost of his or her capabilities, no matter what he or she may personally think of the client, or the case. In so doing, the advocate must at all times carry out the task with fairness and honesty, particularly in all dealings with the court and fellow lawyers.
It is said that the most important attribute of an advocate is his or her reputation; this is what earns an advocate the respect of colleagues, the receptive ear of the court, and ultimately the confidence of the client.
Traditional methods of training lawyers typically focus exclusively on the academic and procedural aspects of the law. Consequently, many lawyers have never viewed advocacy from an organizational perspective. Law schools teach lawyers how to think about legal issues; articling programs give students a glimpse of the practice of litigation, and bar admission courses fail to expose lawyers to the workings of an effective litigation practice. Novice litigators in the courtroom, and their clients, can often face an almost certain process of trial and error, needless wasted time, and collective frustration.
Experienced litigators recognize that it is the painstaking preparation for the courtroom and excellent organizational skills that are the hallmarks of great advocacy. Though not a substitute for experience and good judgment, organizational competence enforces an advocate's ability to apply his or her expertise to the issues, and provides the basis for the successful navigation of a diverse variety of challenges in the courtroom. Lawyers with, or without experience, who overlook these structural prerequisites to the preparation of a case, are literally flying on a wing and a prayer.
Choosing an effective litigation specialist should be based upon the reputation of that advocate, as best judged by peers and clients. Whether young and inexperienced, or older and wiser, the successful litigator will possess excellent organizational skills and the ability to carry out the painstaking preparatory work that is required to be done well in advance of the court hearing. With increasingly complex legal and factual issues facing the litigants in contested proceedings, clients deserve the very best efforts and skills from their chosen litigation advocates.
Moreover, as consumers of legal services, today's clients should expect and receive greater access to, and participation in, the litigation process. This active role commences with the initial retainer arrangement with their lawyer and continues throughout the conduct of the case. Clients must be kept fully informed of the progress of their litigation, the work being performed on their behalf, and the strategies being developed for effective presentation of their case.
The litigation advocate who practices with these simple rules in mind will invariably be successful in the courtroom, and enjoy the benefit of a well-earned reputation.