Book Review: Modern Advocacy – Perspectives from Singapore

Picked up Modern Advocacy – Perspectives from Singapore from the library and just before I browsed through it, I half-expected it to be another book covering the usual objectives of cross-examination, how to frame your questions, or how to best make opening or closing submissions. But I couldn’t be more wrong and the book is a treasure trove of invaluable tips and lessons on trial advocacy. It provides in-depth coverage on all aspects of the craft of advocacy and very uniquely, from a Singapore perspective. A lot of the content and advice can equally be applicable here in Malaysia, due to our very similar laws on civil procedure.

The book is split into 20 chapters, and each chapter is authored by a leading litigator or judge in Singapore. The book does not just focus on the oft-perceived concept of advocacy being only the arguments made in court or deft cross-examination of the witnesses on the stand. Advocacy, or good advocacy, covers the entire span of trial preparation, from developing a case theory from the start, the drafting of pleadings to fit with that case theory, interviewing your witnesses, interlocutory proceedings and pre-trial and the eventual trial proceedings.

The chapters take the reader through this entire process of advocacy, each author giving advice and lessons while also peppering their writings with their own personal experiences. It is a wonderful read as the book either gives you a new perspective on how to approach a case or reinforces some of the approaches you have already adopted in your practice.

For instance, in the chapter covering ‘Advocacy in Interlocutory Applications’, Steven Chong SC shares with us litigation strategy on what sort of interlocutory applications should be applied for. The example of discovery is used, where the application for discovery is not so much to see what the opposing party will disclose, but to see what the opposing party refuses to disclose. It is useful to use such an application to gauge whether you have hit the other side’s “raw nerve”. An application for specific discovery of supposed non-relevant and undisclosed documents may then eventually cause the opposing party’s case theory to unravel. Applications for summary judgment or striking out can be useful – not necessarily and only to succeed in these applications, but to also assess the other party’s strengths and weaknesses and to force the other party to commit to a case theory or position very early on in the proceedings.

The book does not only focus on civil trial proceedings, but there are two chapters devoted to criminal trial proceedings and another focusing on advocacy in arbitration and alternative dispute resolution. Appellate advocacy is also covered as well as an overview from the Bench.

This is a fantastic read so I would highly recommend the purchase of it. It’s not too expensive so I want to pick up a copy for myself as well.

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