Who is an advocate? Origin of the word “advocate”
The word “advocate” originated from an Old French word “avocat “ which means “barrister”, advocate, spokesman,”
Under the Roman law, the word “advocate” was traced to the Latin word “advocatus” (past participle of advocare) which means one called to aid (another); a pleader (on one’s behalf),
The word “advocate” was used to describe someone whose profession it is to plead cases in a court of justice or someone who speaks on behalf of another person.
To Britannica, “advocate” is a person who is professionally qualified to plead the cause of another in a court of law.
Webster defined “advocate” to mean someone who defend the cause of another in court or someone who pleads the cause of another person in court or someone who supports another’s cause.
In the case of Emeka v IGP(2021) 10 NWLR(Pt.1785) P. 495, the court held:
” The terms “advocate” denotes the work or profession of an advocate; the act of pleading for or actively supporting the cause or proposal…a person who assists clients with case before judicial tribunal”
The bottom line is that an advocate is a lawyer, a counsel, a Solicitor, a legal practitioner, or a barrister. This group of words refer to someone whose expertise is the field of law.
Whether a person will be regarded as an advocate, a lawyer, a Solicitor or Barrister depends on the country of origin of such a person, as legal system differs from place to place.
Requirement to be an advocate
Anyone with a legal education (lawyer) can practice law, but only a member of the Advokatura (Адвокатура) may practice before a criminal court (other person can be a defence counsel in criminal proceeding along with a member of Advokatura but not in lieu as per wiki
There is a distinction between a junior advocate and Senior advocate. For one to be an advocate, you must have passed through the Dutch Bar education and fulfil the compulsory 3 years internship training under the supervision of a senior Advocate.
The Advocates Act in Netherland, regulates the practice of law in the country.
Under the said Act, the Dutch bar association (Orde van Advocaten) regulates the professional conduct and the professional education of the Advocates.
For you to be an advocate in Nigeria, you must have obtained your LL. B in any of the accredited universities in Nigeria.
All lawyers are admitted to the Nigerian Bar Association after undergoing one year post graduate training at the Nigerian law School.
Such candidate to be admitted to Bar, must have passed the Bar exams and must be of good repute.
After the call to Bar, the person can now file processes in court, prepare instruments, and appear in court as advocate or as Barrister and solicitor of the Supreme court of Nigeria.
The legal practitioner’s Act and the Rules of Professional conduct 2007, regulates the conduct of lawyers in Nigeria.
For you to be a good Advocate
Being an advocate is beyond having the certificate or license to practice law. Being an advocate requires the following skills:
a. Ability to listen
How do you know that, what someone said is a lie if you were not paying attention to what the person said? How will you know whether a client has right of action in court, if you didn’t get the facts of his case?
A good listener is someone who focuses completely on what another person is saying and engages with their ideas in a thoughtful, comprehensive way per indeed
The listening skill is one of the greatest tool of a lawyer. This is because, to be able to get information or brief from a client, you need to listen to the case of your client.
The listening required of a lawyer is not passive listening.A lawyer listening to a client listens with his mind and body, not just to what the client is saying but to the client’s bodily expression.
There are moments some clients will find it difficult to communicate verbally to you, listening, would help you to detect when a piece of information is not coherent.
Again, it is not just in chambers that listening skill will be effective tool for a lawyer. It is more effectively deployed in court during advocacy.
When an adverse party is making argument and when the judge or magistrate is talking to a lawyer or giving verdict, a lawyer need to pay attention.
Vital things that can make or mar a case can be discovered in open court only if a lawyer is listening while his matter is going on.
To be a good listener:
- Don’t talk when someone is still talking.
- Ask for permission from the person talking before you say something.
- Avoid listening, just to detect the errors in a person manner of speaking.
- Don’t be in a haste to speak, if not you will focus more on talking than what the person is saying.
- Always asks for explanation if you don’t get the details.
- Don’t make assumptions on what you didn’t understand.
- Don’t play with your phone or tablet when someone is talking.
- Remove the earpiece
b. Ability to reason and Analyze.
Reasoning comes after listening to someone. It can be immediate, it can be, several days after the discussion.
By reasoning, a lawyer give thoughtful evaluation to the case of his client base on the information he has gathered.
After a thoughtful approach, a lawyer is able to dissect the facts of the case and adopt the best approach to satisfying the need of his client.
consideration, imagination, and forecast.
A good lawyer should be able to go through this three processes.
Being able to thoughtful consider an issue, you should as well imagine possibilities and make sound predictions.
By this, nothing will take you unawares. Because you are always prepared for the “worst case scenario”
If you cannot reason, you will always meet surprises, that will put your expertise in doubt.
c. Ability to understand and interprete the law.
Back then in University, I heard numberlessly, a good lawyer is not someone who knows all the laws but someone who knows where to find the law”.
As I grow older in the legal profession, I realize that you cannot find what you don’t know. As complicated as this may sound, a good lawyer should know the law. Law is an arsenal of a lawyer. it is what makes you a “law-yer”
When you don’t know the law, it reflects in the way you handle cases and make argument in courts. Knowing where to get the law is an added advantage.
Apart from knowing the law, your ability to interprete the law and apply it to your case makes you indomitable.
d. Ability to read and research
There is nothing so disgusting like a lawyer who does not read. Beyond what you learnt in school, there are changes everyday in the society and legal system in particular.
Precedents pop-up everyday, such that what was the law yesterday may be overturned today. This is why we said that one of the features of law is that law is dynamic.
How will you know the said changes if you don’t read? A lawyer reads both internet materials and hard copies of books.
It is very unreasonable for a lawyer to concentrate only on reading law books or materials. We have heard, and we believe that lawyers are learned people. This is because, they represent the tag “I know it all” or jack of all trade” although, master of laws.
A good lawyer reads every books that comes his way. Knowledge is a powerful tool of a lawyer, not just legal knowledge. It can be scientific, sports, religion, fashion, mining etc.
A lawyer’s work is so hectic that at times, you may have a client who is an engineer, a medical doctor, an astronaut, business man,etc.
Believe me, you won’t do well in the matter, if you are a complete novice to the subject matter.
e.Ability to speak
One of the major duties of a lawyer is to speak for himself and other persons in matters of legal nature or public interest.
The only way to speak is to speak coherently with English language or any language used as a medium of communication at the point of necessity.
A good lawyer should have commands of words. It is very irritating for you to get up in court and speak things that are either confusing or makes no meaning. It is more annoying to speak so shallow on a particular subject matter.
A good lawyers speaks with confidence. He speaks authoritavely. He has eloquence and comportment. He speaks neither too audible nor too inaudible. He is moderate in speech. Where necessary, he employs the law to win an argument, and where necessary, he import emotions to his tone as to win the pity of those listening. This is the act of speaking that wins argument in court.
To be able to speak effectively:
- Think before you speak
- Know what you want to say
- Say it with boldness and defend your position
- Know when to stop speaking
f. Ability to write
The last work of a lawyer is to prepare instruments, write letters and emails.
An advocate who cannot write effectively is short of being addressed as advocate.
Writing is one of the basic tools of lawyers. In the chambers, lawyers drafts agreement, letters, notices, pleadings, motions, etc.A lawyer can decide that he just want to concentrate on drafting document, and forget the Advocacy aspect.
But in Country like Nigeria, where advocacy is combined with drafting, a lawyer must learn to write, in most understandable manner, not necessarily through the use of legal jargons and archaic words or phrases.
g.Ability to dress well.
Lawyers have their attire. Often, when they are in chamber, they dress on black suit and trousers with black shoes, white shirt and neat tie.
Outside the office environment, a lawyers also appear smart on suit or native wears when necessary.
In court, in some jurisdiction, lawyers wear wig and gown in addition to their black suit.
It is unprofessional to look unprepared and shabby in dressing. You lose confidence in yourself, you loose the respect of your client and you lose the respect of court.
It is more devastating for a lawyer to wear dirty clothes or body odour. You can always get good body spray, and cream to get from your audience, the respect you deserve.
h. Ability to relate well with people
The way you handle people around you as a lawyer affects the number of client you get. The more people you know, the better the chance of you surviving in the legal profession, because of the competition therein.
Again, how well, you treat the few once you know, determine whether they will recommend others to you.
The people you might encounter, are people with different temparements, political and religious beliefs, background etc.
Your ability to relate well with persons (potential client) will give you an edge above others. Just know that everyone you meet is a potential client.
What makes you a bad advocate
It is just natural to conclude that the opposite of a good advocate is a bad advocate. In other words, if you don’t have the abilities discussed above, the conclusion is that you are a bad advocate. Our next articles will buttress this more.
We hope you find the information here useful.