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Learning to Litigate

A Guide for Young Lawyers







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AUD $89.95 gst included

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 1 Advocacy – a holistic process
Ch 2 Is being an advocate for me?
Ch 3 Developing a litigation practice
Ch 4 Ethics and Etiquette
Ch 5 Acquiring Litigation Technique
Ch 6 Legal Research: A Fundamental Skill

Ch 7 Before proceedings are commenced
Ch 8 Pleadings
Ch 9 Interlocutory matters
Ch 10 Evidence preparation
Ch 11 Criminal practice
Ch 12 Specialist forms of practice
Ch 13 Resolution without a hearing
Ch 14 Preparation for hearing
Ch 15 Witness examination-in-chief and re-examination
Ch 16 Cross-examination
Ch 17 Persuasive Written Submissions
Ch 18 Persuasive oral submissions

Ch 19 How to be a good junior
Ch 20 Advocacy adjacent skills
Ch 21 The law and a life

Overall, Learning to Litigate is fertile ground for those with questions they may be too afraid to ask, have nobody whom they can ask, or do not even know what questions they should be asking. For that reason, it may be of particular assistance to those who come to the law with limited legal background. For persons with some prior knowledge and experience of the law there will inevitably be parts with which they are already familiar. But, as the authors astutely caution, “familiarity is deceptive”. Simple and creative solutions to common problems are woven throughout which would benefit any budding litigator. Read full review…

Maggie Hegna, Australian Law Journal, 97/1 (2023)

This book is an invaluable and insightful resource for educating future litigators in challenges they will likely face in their career. Williams and Hammond overcome the common drawbacks of legal books, writing clearly and concisely, and using tools (eg, glossary, footnotes) to ensure the understanding of those unfamiliar with the subject matter.

The authors effectively fill the gap in the literature, providing a hands-on guide to junior practitioners “seeking to acquire the necessary skills for a successful practice in litigation”, littered with tips and tricks for navigating their journey, and real-world examples to help illustrate concepts. Read full review…

Abinayan Thillainadarajah, Australian Business Law Review, 50/429 (2023)

We are not aware of any previous work that has drawn together lessons on modern Australian litigation in such a practical, careful and comprehensive way.

Both reviewers have worked on matters listed in many Australian states and territories, and we expect many Australian litigators will have similar experiences across their careers. This book may be a valuable resource in continuing a national discussion about how to develop programs for entry into the profession and support early-career litigators in a unified way across the country. Read full review…

Robert Hollo SC and Claire Roberts, Bar News, Summer 2022

Learning to Litigate is an invaluable guide to modern litigation primarily targeted at young lawyers while also offering a useful refresher for all practitioners. Authored by a highly experienced silk and a young barrister with previous experience as a litigation solicitor, the text gives practical guidance on the litigation process from the perspective of both barrister and solicitor. Read full review…

J Sargent of Counsel, Queensland Law Reporter – [2022] 47 QLR

This is a quite remarkable and comprehensive guide for young lawyers throughout the early years of their career as a barrister or a solicitor engaged in litigation of a variety of kinds. The work is practical in nature and not theoretical or philosophical. Nevertheless it is a work of real substance informed by very considerable and contemporary experience in litigation and enhanced by real wisdom and judgment. The myth that advocacy skills, in all their dimensions, are somehow innate and cannot be learned is thoroughly dispelled. In the process information, advice and strategies for career development which will provide a practitioner real confidence in all the stresses and strains of litigation practice are provided in a very clear and accessible form. The authors have provided the rare gift of writing down the things that a practitioner would otherwise have to learn, things which are not written down in the usual texts and practice notes and which otherwise are learned by, often bitter, experience. No aspiring advocate, barrister or solicitor, or their mentors should be without this book, a work which I most strongly recommend. It is a real treasure trove!

Justice Clyde Croft AM, Supreme Court of Victoria

Book launch: Learning to Litigate: A Guide for Young Lawyers
Banco Court, Supreme Court of New South Wales – 21/02/23

The Federation Press held a book launch for Learning to Litigate: A Guide for Young Lawyers in February 2023.

[Photo] Book stand at the launch of Learning to Litigate: A Guide for Young Lawyers – 21/02/22

[[Launch speech] The Hon A S Bell – CJ of NSW 21/02/23

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