MASTERING THE ART OF THE CLOSING ARGUMENT
Ms Karen Chow and Ms Rina See will join Mr Paul Heath KC to demystify the art of a successful closing argument.
BY ASHUTOSH RAVIKRISHNAN
Singapore continues to be a magnet for top barristers from around the world. The latest two who have moved here are Ms Karen Chow and Ms Rina See, both of Bankside Chambers, the first New Zealand barristers' chambers with a permanent presence here.
There’s a quiet familiarity between the two, who had never met each other before starting at Bankside. “That was surprising, considering how similar our backgrounds are,” says Karen. Both, for instance, have roots in the region: Rina was born in Singapore and grew up in New Zealand before eventually moving to London for work. Meanwhile, Karen was born in Malaysia and has spent more than half her adult life in New Zealand, with a short stint in Singapore a few years ago.
But since earlier this year, they’ve both called Singapore home. “In my time here, I’ve noticed that there’s no shortage of events for the legal profession,” comments Rina. They’ll be supporting one such event later this month, in a session dedicated to the art of the closing argument.
Here, they will join Mr Paul Heath KC, also of Bankside Chambers, to share tips gleaned from their careers. These will include tips on presentation and delivery: how quickly you’re speaking, how to cut back on filler words, and even down to how you place your hands when you’re presenting. “We hope it’ll be a chance for members to give and get constructive feedback from one another.”
Rina teaching a class on arbitration cases in China
The session’s focus on the closing argument is crucial. “Your closing is really the last opportunity to put forth your strongest case,” reflects Karen. “You’re pulling together what the court or panel have heard to support your position. You also should deal quite openly with any difficulties the evidence might have thrown up.”
Both have seen this firsthand and will use their experience to guide members. For example, Rina plans to tap on her unique experience in criminal law and international arbitration, which has made her familiar with different styles of closing arguments. “I’ve learnt to identify the elements you have to satisfy as you put issues to the decisionmaker, be it a judge or an arbitrator,” she explains.
They also look forward to hearing from Paul, who was on the New Zealand bench for nearly 20 years, for a judicial perspective. Judges' styles, much like those of advocates, vary greatly. “Sometimes judges are more engaged and they may ask questions. But in some cases, they’re quieter and you have to know how to adapt,” shares Karen. “I have had to overcome the tendency to say, ‘I’m sorry, Your Honour, do you have any questions?’ because I was thrown off when there weren’t any questions. But I’ve adapted, as any good counsel should be able to.”
Karen in action in a New Zealand court
Besides these perspectives, such trainings are also an opportunity to try something new. “You can try a new approach without the risk of failing. Depending on the field you’re in, you may not often get the chance to even do a closing argument. So when you do have a chance, you want to do it well,” concludes Rina.
Principles of Oral Advocacy – Illustrated in the Effective Closing Address will be held on 31 October 2023. Mr Paul Heath KC will talk about the underlying principles of oral advocacy, with particular reference to closing addresses. A demonstration of closing addresses in a fictional murder trial will then be conducted by Ms Karen Chow and Ms Rina See. Register here.