3 Keys to Effective Advocacy

By John Allison

Lawyers often act as advocates.  They represent clients in court and in arbitration proceedings.  A lawyer may be urging a regulatory official to take certain action on behalf of a client.  Lawyers also negotiate for clients and represent clients in mediation.    

Following these guidelines will help you represent clients effectively whenever you are acting as an advocate on their behalf. 


1 | Focus on the client’s goals


In any representation, it is important to have the client’s goals clearly in mind. 

Exactly what are your clients trying to achieve?  Does a client involved in a dispute want to be vindicated by a victory in court, or would the client prefer a faster and much less expensive resolution?  Is a client involved in a contract negotiation willing to be flexible on certain issues in order to reach an agreement, and what are those issues?  Are there matters the client considers to be nonnegotiable? 

By understanding what your clients want to achieve, you will be able to tailor your advocacy to match the clients’ goals. 


2 | Prepare thoroughly


Before engaging in any advocacy activity on behalf of a client, thorough preparation is critical. 

Learn as much as you can about how the legal matter is impacting your client.  Know the laws that apply to your client’s situation.  Understand the strengths and weaknesses of your client’s legal position.  Learn as much as you can about the other parties involved.  Know the strengths and weaknesses of the other party’s position, and figure out how to minimize their strengths and capitalize on their weaknesses.


3 | Be credible


Credibility is essential.  Don’t fall into the trap of misstating the facts or the applicable law.  Promptly correct any inadvertent misstatement, and follow through on commitments you make. 

It is also important to maintain a reputation for honesty, integrity and credibility.  Whether appearing before a judge, explaining your client’s position to a regulatory official, or negotiating with opposing counsel, your reputation will precede you.  If that reputation is a positive one, the people you are trying to persuade will be inclined to trust you and listen to what you have to say. 

By staying focused on your client’s goals, preparing thoroughly and being a credible advocate, you will be able to represent your clients well in your advocacy role.


Related articles:

Dealing with a Client’s Feelings and Emotions

How Lawyers Deal With Difficult People

Communicating with People Who are Not Lawyers


John Allison is a professional career coach backed by years of experience as a successful lawyer. He is the founder of The Coach for Lawyers and author of The Art of Practicing Law: A Practical Guide for Lawyers.