Before You Speak: Essential Preparations for Effective Advocacy

Effective argumentation in a legal context requires meticulous preparation. The insights discussed here are drawn from the book “Be a Competent Lawyer” authored by the late SM Zafar, a renowned lawyer and Senior Advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. Sir Zafar’s wisdom demonstrates the importance of knowing the facts, understanding the law, and being familiar with the judge’s tendencies as crucial components for success. Each of these elements plays a pivotal role in crafting a persuasive and well-grounded argument for competent lawyers. Let’s delve deeper into these essential aspects:

Knowing the Facts

Prepare Brief Notes for Ready Reference:

Before stepping into the courtroom, ensure that you have concise notes that highlight the key facts of the case. These notes should be easily accessible during argumentation to support your points promptly and accurately.

Visit the Site of the Crime or Incident:

A firsthand understanding of the location involved in the case can provide valuable insights. Observing the scene can help clarify details that might be overlooked in written reports, allowing you to present a more vivid and precise argument.

Talking to the Client:

Additionally, engaging in thorough discussions with your client is crucial. Listen attentively to their account to gather comprehensive details and understand their perspective. This helps in constructing a narrative that accurately reflects their situation.

Competent Lawyers avoid Hollow Victories:

Do not be swayed by innocuous or neutral remarks from the judge that might seem favorable. Focus on substantial victories that advance your case meaningfully.

Identify Indefensible Aspects:

Competent lawyers recognize and be prepared to concede points that are clearly indefensible. This demonstrates honesty and strategic thinking, allowing you to focus on stronger arguments.

Consider the Opponent’s Perspective:

Furthermore, a competent lawyers always anticipate the arguments of their opposing counsel might present. This helps in pre-emptively addressing potential weaknesses in your case and strengthening your overall argumentation.

Present Methodically:

When arguing your case, especially on the affirmative side, organize your presentation methodically. Use a structured approach to guide the judge logically through your arguments toward the desired outcome.

Knowing the Law

Master the Facts to Discover Applicable Law:

Firstly, understanding the intricate details of the case will naturally lead you to the relevant legal principles. This foundational knowledge is essential for effective legal argumentation.

Relief Depends on Law and Interpretation:

Furthermore, the relief you seek for your client hinges on how well you interpret and apply the law. Be prepared to navigate complex legal interpretations to bolster your case.

Competent Lawyers always Ensure Jurisdiction:

Verify that the court has jurisdiction over your case. Jurisdictional issues can derail your argument if not addressed properly from the outset.

Understand Legislative Intent in Appeals:

When appealing a lower court’s decision, it’s crucial to grasp the legislative intent behind your rights and limits. This understanding can guide your strategy and arguments in the higher court.

Knowing the Judge

Know the Judicial Mind and Philosophy:

Familiarize yourself with the judge’s legal philosophy and prior rulings. Understanding whether the judge values precedents or prefers original arguments can shape your approach.

Judge’s Preferences:

Determine if the judge has a preference for precedents or innovative legal interpretations. Tailoring your arguments to align with these preferences can increase their receptivity.

Judge’s Disposition:

Assess whether the judge is liberal, compassionate, and open-minded, or more conservative and strict in their interpretation of the law. This knowledge helps in framing your arguments to resonate better with their judicial outlook.

Judge’s Mood:

Lastly, be mindful of the judge’s mood on the day of the hearing. This can impact how your arguments are received, so adjust your delivery accordingly.

Courtroom Mannerism and Attitude:

Cultivate a courtroom demeanor that fosters a smooth relationship with the judge. Use more transition words, avoid passive voice, and clearly explain each point. Effective communication can significantly enhance the persuasiveness of your argument.


In conclusion, thorough preparation encompassing a deep understanding of the facts, a solid grasp of the law, and insight into the judge’s tendencies is essential for successful argumentation in court. By considering these elements, you can develop a compelling and well-rounded legal argument.

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