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Don’t go too fast

One of the overarching points we make here, and in the book, is that concise focused advocacy is a good thing. This is not quite the same as saying ‘Going fast is better than going slow’, but it does often come down to the same thing.

A certain amount of speed in tribunal is generally good. Tribunals like to move through cases and get to the bottom of things; they do not like long, rambling cross-examination or interminable submissions. You will rarely do your case any favours by dawdling.

On the other hand, it is possible to go too quickly. It is no good trying to give the tribunal information faster than they can absorb it.

There are two main causes of excessive speed. The first is simply nervousness. Many of us start to gabble a bit (or a lot) under stress. Always try to speak calmly and, if you need to, stop and take some deep breaths.

The second problem is that, by the time you reach the tribunal, you should know your case and what you have to say very well. It is easy to forget that the tribunal is coming to it fresh and will sometimes need a little while to catch up.

This can a particularly problem where your case touches on something unfamiliar to the tribunal. You can expect your tribunal to know employment law and common employment situations very well. When you have dealt with hundreds of unfair dismissal cases and read hundreds of disciplinary policies, you can grasp the next one very quickly. But if your case involves some obscure area of law, or the technicalities of sprocket calibration in your particular industry, you will normally need to take those parts little slower.

A good bit of old fashioned advice to new lawyers was ‘Watch the Judge’s pen’. In other words, if the Judge has stopped writing you are going too slow, but if he is forced to scribble furiously you are going too fast. Typing has mostly replaced scribbling, but the general point holds.

Tribunals will also give you a lot of guidance. If you move too quickly you will be stopped and taken back. Once the tribunal has said a few time ‘Just one moment, Ms Smith, could you just go back a bit?’ you should adjust your speed.

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