Bond University

Article Title

Trial Advocacy Training in Law School: An Australian Perspective


Australian law schools are in a unique position. At the end of 1993 less than one-half of the nation’s law schools offered a course in trial advocacy. By way of contrast, in the United States almost all of the accredited law schools offer a basic course in trial advocacy based on the simulation/critique approach pioneered in the 1970s by the National Institute for Trial Advocacy (NITA). Hence, Australian law schools are in the enviable position of instituting, further developing, and refining advocacy courses which suit both the educational objectives of the university and the needs of the legal profession. The following discussion is based on the assumption that advocacy skills can be taught. Mr Justice Hampel, Chairman of the Australian Advocacy Institute and a judge of the Supreme Court of Victoria, has rightly asserted that, ... at last, the myth that advocacy cannot be taught has been finally put to rest. The last fifteen years have seen great developments in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand in attempts to analyse what makes good persuasive advocacy and how it can be taught. The argument that effective advocacy skills cannot be taught has run its course. Trial technique has proved to be a highly teachable commodity.5 Whether trial advocacy should be taught at the undergraduate level and, if this question is answered in the affirmative, what should be covered in the course, are questions which remain unanswered. Hence, this article will focus on two issues: the niche a trial advocacy course should occupy in the undergraduate law school curriculum; and the structure and content of such a course.