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  • Writer's pictureRobert Spicer

The boredom of advocacy: rarely admitted

The sheer, mind-numbing boredom of courtroom advocacy is rarely admitted. The detailed, endless preparation, the waiting in draughty corridors, the tiresome repetition of evidence and counter-evidence, the predictably bad-tempered judge, the waiting for the jury to return. The interminable waiting on draughty station platforms for the train to Snaresbrook for the plea in mitigation for £50, the standing on crowded trains for the case management conference in Merthyr Tydfil for £30. The egotism of the advocates who love to be “on their feet”. The dressing-up, the dressings-down. The judge who was obviously bullied at his public school and who subconsciously returns the favour to his subordinates throughout his working life.

The mystique of oral advocacy can be a gift to those who love the sound of their own voices. It is now generally accepted that the English tradition of oral adversarial advocacy involves a massive waste of time, and therefore money.

Even the supposedly glamorous side of the trade, the Crown Court trial, has its great share of tedium. The trial process itself appears endlessly repetitive. Cross-examination, hailed as an art form, consists largely of repeating over and over again, questions to expose supposed inconsistencies in evidence.

And the waiting – nothing to do but wait – for the judge, the jury, the court. Hours of lost and wasted waiting time. Advocates in the Crown Court adopt a particular style of deference towards the judge – a deference which has been honed by convention over the centuries.

The speech to the jury – repeating everything the jurors already know and the judge’s summing up which repeats it all over again. This can be more than the normal person can stand

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