Lawwatch

Command of Language is a key Tool for an Advocate

Nothing else is more crucial for an advocate for his professional
success than his command of language. In fact the command of language is
the key to success in any profession in which words count. Advocacy is a
profession where command of language - both in written and spoken form -
plays a decisive role. Since English is the language in which many
materials required for an advocate are available, this article refers to
an advocate’s command over English language alone.

An advocate needs language skills in diverse occasions. He needs
language skills while presenting a case in the court or persuading a
judge to a particular point of view or convincing a client about a
complex issue. An advocate cannot bring the rightness of the cause which
he argues to the attention of the judge without language skills.

In cross examination, an advocate requires language ability in asking
right questions and in using the right words, in the right tone and
tenor so as to elicit right answers from the witness. To study a
provision of law, which might be drafted in a highly sophisticated style
or in a quite simple but deceptive form, an advocate requires language
skills. In critically analyzing each word and its meaning he requires
language ability. In preparing a deed of contract or a will or a
petition, an advocate requires ability to find the right words and
sentences that would serve the purpose of such a deed.

Words carry thought

Words are the vehicle of one’s thought. One cannot think and converse
without using words. In writing or in conversation one communicates
mostly in words and there is no other easier way to converse or
communicate with one another.

No advocate can attain professional success without having a good
command over the words and the language he handles. If there is
difficulty for others to make out what an advocate writes or speaks it
may be because his mind is still unclear of the concepts he deals with.
Obscurity in language is probably the result of obscurity in thinking.

Inherent infirmity of words is also a problem, but the right solution to
this problem is persistent learning and skillful use of them. A word may
mean one thing in one context but another thing in a quite different
context. An advocate must therefore exercise great care in using each
word in its right context. He must prefer using plain and clear words to
communicate effectively.

Denning’s effort to develop language ability

Lord Denning, in his book “The Discipline of Law”, narrates the
extraordinary efforts he - though he was an English native - had taken
to acquire his English language skills when he was called upon to serve
the Bar.

He tried to become proficient in words drawing on English literature and
reading the works of Shakespeare. He read great authorities like
Macaulay, Carlyle and Milton to horn his language ability. Reading those
books provided him not only a wide vocabulary of words but also a good
familiarity of the meaning those great authors assigned to the words. He
learned that the meaning of a word may change from time to time, place
to place, and person to person, depending on the context in which it is
used.

Then he practiced the words and their language pattern continually, as a
pianist regularly practices his piano, so as to get proficiency in both
writing and speaking. He took infinite pains in writing, by crossing
sentences after sentences, writing them again and again, so as to make
the writing clear and definite.

Therefore an advocate should consciously cultivate the practice of
building command of language on order to succeed in his profession.

Need to make your voice pleasing

In fact, developing speaking skill needs more practice and experience
compared to developing skills in writing. The first thing to be focused
in speaking is to make your voice pleasing. A harsh or discordant voice
dispels its listeners. Use the right pitch and tone so that you are
audible to all those who pay attention to your speech, without strain.

Use right pronunciation, rhythm and intonation to make your speech
attractive for which you need to practice voice articulation exercises.
Pace must not be too fast or slow. But take care, not to use long winded
sentences. When you speak or write - as Lord Denning says - you should
think of the people who are listening to you in the court room or
chamber or those who are reading your essay or book. Make their task of
reading/listening easy as you can, by avoiding possible pitfalls of
improper speaking or writing.

Not to use long words or sentences

Lord Denning then asks us not to use long words unless we are sure that
our readers/hearers understand it.

If one uses a word that they have never heard before, he/she will fail
in his communication by not conveying his meaning to them. Therefore
don’t use a long or complex word. But when you come across a long word
in the course of reading or listening then you must look it up in the
dictionary to extend your vocabulary. However if a long word is there in
a statute which you cannot ignore, you have to find out what it means by
looking at the definition clause or a dictionary. Then give the word the
most sensible meaning you can think of.

He reminds us not to use an over long sentence. He adds that you may
lose the hearer or reader before he gets to the end of your material if
you use long winding sentences. Therefore desist from using
multi-syllable jargons and verbal distortions; instead use plain, simple
words and clear sentences which everybody will understand. Avoid round
about expressions; instead use direct language style.

When a long draft is being prepared make it into paragraphs and
sentences. If a sentence is unduly long, split it up into short ones or
use punctuations. Sometimes a dash, colon or semicolon can do magic in
making your long sentence manageable and meaningful. Kindly remember not
to end up with the first draft. Read and re-read it, correct and
re-correct it a dozen times so as to make it clearer to your readers.
Divide a long piece of writing into smaller parts with a short heading
for each division.

Choose the right word

You should choose your words well and present them well when making an
oral presentation. A good speech prepared well in advance can be ruined
by a bad delivery. Please don’t forget that the spoken and the written
word are quite different. If you are writing a draft for a speech,
please write it in a style you orally deliver it. Never learn the speech
by heart but think of the points in it and explain them during delivery.

Writing English perfectly is as important as speaking it in the right
way. Making a mistake while speaking does not matter much, but making
the same mistakes in writing may damage your professional reputation.

Not to use bad English

And remember not to use uncivilized and offensive expressions no
civilized person dares to speak or write in public.

Similarly bad English will damage your reputation. People get distracted
by grammatical or spelling errors. No one will take you seriously if
your English is unreasonably bad when your profession requires you to be
well equipped in English language.

When almost every source of knowledge in law right from the text books
to enacted laws to reference documents to Judgments exists in English
language an advocate cannot survive in the profession without horning
proper English language skills.