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Learning to Litigate

A Guide for Young Lawyers







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It is sometimes said that great advocates are born, not made. The central tenet of this book is that such assertions are dangerous nonsense.

Modern litigation is a sophisticated business, requiring a wide range of organisational, procedural, presentational and technical legal skills. Whether it be a plea of guilty before a magistrate or a multi-party commercial dispute involving billions of dollars and dozens of lawyers for each party, each stage in the preparation and presentation of a case requires skills that must be learned, then honed.

While there are specialist texts on some aspects of advocacy, few set out to provide a guide for a junior practitioner seeking to acquire the necessary skills for a successful practice in litigation, whether within a law firm or at the independent Bar. This book sets out to address that gap, and to provide advice on navigating the shoals of a career in litigation.

The book is the result of a collaboration between a relatively senior practitioner, Neil Williams SC, who has been at the independent Bar for more than 33 years, 21 of them as senior counsel, and a relatively junior barrister, Alison Hammond, who has been at the Sydney Bar for three years and before that worked in commercial litigation at King & Wood Mallesons in Sydney, and as Associate to Justice Virginia Bell at the High Court. This collaboration is designed to combine the lessons of recent experience in acquiring litigation technique with a longer view of advocacy training, one informed by the observation of many readers and other junior practitioners, and more extensive direct experience of litigation at all levels.

This book will be useful to solicitors working in litigation; to those considering or preparing to sit a Bar exam; to those in their reading year at the Bar; to litigators in their first 10 years in practice, and to those who mentor junior litigators.

As Chief Justice Kiefel writes in the Foreword, “The work is essential reading for young litigators and their mentors… I wish that I had been fortunate enough to have had access to a guide such as this when I commenced my career in litigation.”


Ch I Advocacy – a holistic process
Ch II Is being an advocate for me?
Ch III Developing a litigation practice
Ch IV Ethics and Etiquette
Ch V Acquiring Litigation Technique
Ch VI Legal Research: A Fundamental Skill

Ch VII Before proceedings are commenced
Ch VIII Pleadings
Ch IX Interlocutory matters
Ch X Evidence preparation
Ch XI Criminal practice
Ch XII Specialist forms of practice
Ch XIII Resolution without a hearing
Ch XIV Preparation for hearing
Ch XV Witness examination-in-chief and re-examination
Ch XVI Cross-examination
Ch XVII Persuasive Written Submissions
Ch XVIII Persuasive oral submissions

Ch XIX How to be a good junior
Ch XX Advocacy adjacent skills
Ch XXI The law and a life