Review of the Young Advocates’ Fireside Chat on Advocacy with Justice Breese Davies
On October 21, 2021, I attended The Advocates’ Society’s “Young Advocates’ Fireside Chats on Advocacy” featuring The Honourable Justice Breese Davies of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. Before her appointment to the bench in August 2018, Justice Davies practised criminal, constitutional and administrative law at both the trial and appellate levels. At the fireside chat, Justice Davies discussed her unique experiences and background, what she wished she knew earlier in her career, and the importance of creating a sustainable life. Below are just a few of the invaluable practice tips and pieces of advice that Justice Davies had to offer young litigators.
- Be authentic. Do not try to fit the mold of what you believe the “best” advocate ought to look and sound like. Instead, be true to yourself and play to your strengths. The most important thing is to be confident and effective in what you have set out to do. Prepare and present yourself in a way that works best for you.
- Think like a judge. It is often said that law school teaches people to “think like a lawyer”. However, what litigators should be striving to do is to think like a judge. When a case goes to trial, the lawyer will likely know the most about that case that they will ever know, whereas the judge will only just be starting to engage with the case. When you’re able to meet the judge where they’re at, you will become a more effective advocate.
- Practice issue-based advocacy. Written and oral advocacy should focus on the issues to be determined by the judge. Litigators should tell the judge what the hard issues are going to be and explain why the judge should decide those issues in their favour. You should also think about what exactly the judge will be producing – such as an endorsement or written judgement – so that you can give the judge something to help them with that process.
- Use your time wisely. For most lawyers at the beginning of their career, it is difficult to say no to work or opportunities for professional development. However, to avoid over-extending yourself, it is important to be selective and intentional with respect to your commitments. When deciding what activities or engagements to devote your limited time to, you should consider where you will be able to contribute the most.
- Find an outlet. Being a lawyer can be tough on one’s mental health. Early on in your practice, you should get in the habit of making time for things that you love (e.g. walk your dog, cook, run). When you do things that help you decompress and recharge, you will have more energy and be more productive when you get back to work. This is key to building a sustainable and enjoyable practice.
Thanks for reading!