Judge urges lawyers to get to the point

Lawyers outside the State Courts.
Lawyers outside the State Courts. PHOTO: ST FILE

Cut to the chase when in court, a judge urged lawyers, as the Bench is not interested in the niceties of greetings but wants to get down to business promptly.

In his keynote address at a seminar for professional development, Justice Choo Han Teck said the discipline which makes for a good lawyer shows in little ways.

"Many lawyers do not know how to speak in their first few minutes before a judge," he added.

"(They) set a dark and gloomy stage for the rest of the proceedings when they do not know who should speak first or what they ought to say," he noted, adding that they are likely to "splatter and splutter" in the same " muddled" way that they start with.

The Law Society's annual Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Day was held at the Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre last week.

Justice Choo was explicit in his example. He suggested that when lawyers get into court they could address the judge directly, saying: "May it please the court? My name is Adrian Somebody, I appear together with Mr Bernard Nobody. We are for the plaintiff.

"My learned friend, Mr Charles Highhopes, and his assisting counsel, Mr Darren Nohope, appear for the defendant."

He said such a start should create sufficient momentum to carry on to the tough bits as the case continues, pointing out that getting through the "baby talk" quickly needs discipline, practice and "some sensible instructions".

The judge said the CPD programme is meant to develop lawyers who are not just good cross-examiners, good orators or look "wholesomely good". Instead, the complete lawyer is also a man of substance, who is "flexible and mobile", with mastery of language being his most important tool.

A lawyer should also know how to behave towards others through proper social etiquette and towards himself in the absence of others, which is the moral part, said the judge.

"No one is born a great lawyer, nor does he become one. He is always in the process of becoming. That is the idea of CPD," said Justice Choo.

Under the scheme, practising lawyers admitted from 2001 have to attend a number of courses, seminars or activities that are ascribed points for a requisite number as administered by the Singapore Institute of Legal Education.

"CPD is not just a chasing of points. If chasing points is the objective, Pokemon hunting is probably a better alternative," he added.

K.C. Vijayan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 11, 2016, with the headline 'Judge urges lawyers to get to the point'. Print Edition | Subscribe