REFLECTIONS ON ADVOCACY
How seniors—and juniors—can do more to grow advocacy opportunities for junior lawyers.
From left: Mr Daniel Koh (Eldan Law), Mr Rama Tiwari (SAL), Mr Patrick Ang (Rajah & Tann), Justice Andre Maniam, Ms Monica Chong (WongPartnership), Mr Jordan Tan (Audent Chambers) and Mr Sui Yi Siong (Harry Elias)
Before joining the Bench in 2020, Justice Andre Maniam was a litigator with three decades of courtroom experience under his belt, appointed Senior Counsel in 2010. As he told a group of litigators at SAL last week, you don’t get to that level by simply watching the greats. “You need your voice to be heard,” he said, “As a junior litigator, I was fortunate to have seniors who were not only outstanding advocates in their own right, they gave me advocacy opportunities: to make submissions, question witnesses, and conduct trials; to handle smaller matters on my own.”
And so he welcomed the Academy’s members to the launch of the Guide on the Development of Junior Civil Commercial Litigators in Oral Advocacy, which sets out milestones that junior lawyers should try to achieve early in their practice. The Guide was devised by the Academy’s Professional Development and Practice Chapter, and Young Members Chapter.
Ms Monica Chong (chair of the working group for the Guide) and Mr Patrick Ang (a member of the working group) participated in a panel discussion, together with Mr Jordan Tan (chair of the Young Members Chapter) and Mr Sui Yi Siong (2019 winner of the Joseph Grimberg Outstanding Young Advocate Award). That panel discussion provided a wealth of anecdotes about advocacy—both about learning the art and practising it. Here are some memorable ones, expertly elicited by moderator Mr Daniel Koh of Eldan Law.
Ms Monica Chong (WongPartnership): “Lead counsel can do their part by pushing back on client pressures where appropriate. Where for example the hearing is relatively low stakes, lead counsel can seek to agree to have their juniors argue. With that level playing field, the client may be more amenable to having the junior lead at the hearing.”
Mr Patrick Ang (Rajah & Tann): “Seniors can use prep time to show their clients that their juniors know their stuff. It's important to let juniors impress the client, even though I think it’s quite natural for the seniors to want to do so themselves. Let's give a little leeway to the young ones to speak up at meetings and encourage them to do so. Giving them the chance to also lead meetings is another way of instilling client’s confidence in their abilities.”
Mr Jordan Tan (Audent Chambers): “If the client says to the senior lawyer on representation at a hearing ‘I want only you’, I’ll wonder if that conversation is taking place only because the client hasn’t explored the other option, i.e. junior members of the team leading arguments. Of course, if you’ve explored the other option fully and the client has seen the junior in action and decided in this instance, they’ll nonetheless go with you, then that’s fine. But if the client hasn’t had that exposure or conversation, then the senior should think about ways of presenting that to them. Because the junior would be a much more economical option and potentially one that’s just as suitable given the nature of the hearing.”
Mr Sui Yi Siong (Harry Elias Partnership): “Opportunities to impress a client could come at any time, even in the middle of a trial. For example, I was involved in one of Singapore’s longest criminal trials in the High Court. During trial, I volunteered to handle an oral argument on a point of law and my lead counsel very kindly allowed me to do so. I think my client was impressed by my confidence to go up against some very senior prosecutors and so I progressed from arguing pure points of law to cross-examining major witnesses like the investigating officer of the case. I could not have had such an opportunity without my firm’s and lead counsel’s support, and if I had not won over my client’s confidence.”
The Guide on the Development of Junior Civil Commercial Litigators in Oral Advocacy is available for free here.