Advocacy skills crucial for lawyers’ development — Law Times

Sonia Bjorkquist

Oct 1, 2018

Young lawyers need better access to advocacy training in order to hone their advocacy skills, Osler partner Sonia Bjorkquist tells Law Times. In his article, author Shannon Kari discusses how 10 years ago, some practical skills training — including advocacy — was eliminated due to changes to the bar admissions requirements in Ontario. The article also explains how The Law Society of Ontario and The Advocates’ Society hold seminars and workshops aimed at helping lawyers develop better skills as an advocate. Sonia, Chair of Osler’s Litigation Group and the Immediate Past President of The Advocates’ Society, believes advocacy is a craft that requires extensive practice.

“Advocacy is a craft that we refine over the course of our entire career,” Sonia tells Law Times.

She also says it’s part of experienced lawyers’ professional duty to be willing, where possible, to provide advocacy advice to less experienced counsel.

“As lawyers, we also have a responsibility to all of our junior lawyers to lead by example,” Sonia tells Law Times.

She says that there are fewer opportunities for those who want to practise in civil or commercial litigation to develop their skills in an actual courtroom, adding that one should “never underestimate the value of being in court.”

She lauded Osler for providing regular training for new associates — including advocacy training — and for encouraging its lawyers to participate in Pro Bono Ontario’s legal clinics.

Sonia also says that while effective advocacy requires “preparation, preparation, preparation,” it’s also important for lawyers to be able to read courtroom dynamics.

“When you are prepared, you have your script. That can hamper young lawyers who are so tied to their notes. You have to try reading the body language to see the judge’s reaction,” she tells Law Times. “Be respectful, but appreciate the value of a judge’s question. That is an opportunity to engage. You have to be able to be versatile and to know when to drop a point.”

For more information, read author Shannon Kari’s article “Advocacy skills crucial for lawyers’ development” on October 1, 2018 in Law Times.