Submission (Part 2)

A number of people have commented or emailed about “Do not submit” which recommended that advocates eliminate “I submit” from their vocabulary when addressing the tribunal.

Since the consensus is against me it might be worth setting out in more detail why I dislike it.

Firstly, it offends against the signal to noise principle. Submissions should contain as high a percentage of substance as possible. Anything that does not contribute to your argument should be removed. “I submit” adds nothing meaningful; the tribunal knows you are making submissions.

Secondly, there is a real risk of it becoming an annoying tick. Any phrase repeated often is likely to grate. Once you start saying “I submit” it is hard to know when to stop. After all, everything you say is a submission. Many people find themselves repeating in almost every paragraph they write or every minute as they speak. This has much the same impact as fingernails on a blackboard.

Finally, it puts distance between you and your submissions. It is not as bad as saying “My client’s instructions are to submit”, but the affect is similar. By saying “I submit” you are emphasising your formal role. This may be more comfortable for you the advocate, but it make it harder to communicate conviction.

Abigail makes the good point that “I submit” can be used to show respect for the tribunal. There are certainly moments when this is useful. Say that the tribunal is strongly against you on a point and the dialogue is beginning to descend into a wrangle, rather than a discussion. Using “I submit” might emphasise the formal roles and defuse the confrontation. In general, however, this should not be necessary. You must respect the tribunal, but this means begin polite to them and keeping in mind their judicial role (meaning that you recognise that they are in charge of the hearing). Formal phrases, be they “I submit” or “Respectfully…” do not add anything to this.

Does anyone else have any views?

2 Replies to “Submission (Part 2)”

  1. I think you are correct. The reason you may have had so much reaction is that you have pricked the pomposity of many who use such phrases. There are many advocates who think it clever to use such language many of them profesional lawyers. In the latter case often to emphasize their ‘professional status’. I think it turns Tribunals into a bad episode of a 1970’s TV court room drama.

    I am guessing the same advocates probably also use the phrases ‘lessons learnt’, ‘bottom line’ and ‘do the hard yards’.

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