THE BASICS OF WRITTEN ADVOCACY WITH GOURAB BANERJI
SAL continues its popular courtroom series with a workshop on written advocacy led by Senior Advocate Mr Gourab Banerji. Ahead of the session on 26 July, he speaks to SAL about advocacy, both written and spoken.
Do written and spoken advocacy require different skills and approaches? How do you differentiate them?
Yes. The skillset and approach are different though there is some amount of overlap. In written advocacy, there is the added advantage of time, and the ability to revise and improve. This, however, comes with the burden of requiring greater precision. The approach in oral advocacy is more reactive and flexible.
What are some common threads?
Written and oral arguments complement each other. Whether it be written or spoken advocacy, the aim is to persuade. In both circumstances, the key is preparation and attention to detail. The greater the effort in preparation, the better the outcome. The fundamentals of advocacy remain the same: sound reasoning reflected in the use of simple language.
Does advocacy get easier with time?
Yes and No. To an extent, preparation and experience do help. However, at least for me, each argument presents its own challenges. There is always an element of nervousness in the desire to excel. This is perhaps not so true for written advocacy, as there is an opportunity to improve each and every draft.
Sum up the best advice you’ve received about written advocacy.
Your draft is only as good as your analysis. You will be able to persuade others if you have first worked out the structure and thought processes yourself. It can then be put in simple and direct language. If you are confused or unclear, it will reflect in your writing.
Tell us about cases from your career that turned on the merits of a good written argument.
The opposite is usually true. There have been numerous cases where a badly pleaded case has been lost. I regularly find that, at the appellate stage, there are sometimes serious omissions which result in a case which otherwise had merit, not being entertained.
In one particular case, a counter-affidavit was filed before the Supreme Court which did not address the limited issue raised in the petition, but was unduly lengthy and complex. This resulted in the appeal being admitted when it should have been dismissed at the threshold.
In another instance, in a multi-million dollar arbitration, the pleadings in respect of damages were found to be woefully inadequate.
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