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Conclusions – at the beginning or the end

The format of a lot of advocacy, both written and oral, is to propose a conclusion and provide evidence or explanation to support that conclusion.

So, for example, you might write:

Ms Jones was unfairly dismissed. Mr Smith, who investigated the alleged misconduct did not carry out a proper investigation. He failed to speak to Ms Sampson or Mr Plummer, who would have told him that Ms Jones was with them, in the back office, when the incident took place. Mr Smith also failed to examine the relevant CCTV footage, which would have confirmed Ms Jones’ account.

Here, the conclusion is that Ms Jones was unfairly dismissed. The explanation is the detail relating to the shortcomings of Mr Smith’s investigation.

In the example above, the conclusion comes first and then the explanation follows. It could equally be written with the explanation first.

Mr Smith, who investigated the alleged misconduct did not carry out a proper investigation. He failed to speak to Ms Sampson or Mr Plummer, who would have told him that Ms Jones was with them, in the back office, when the incident took place. Mr Smith also failed to examine the relevant CCTV footage, which would have confirmed Ms Jones’ account. These failures mean that Ms Jones’ dismissal was unfair.

Whether you should lead with the conclusion or the support for it will depend on the situation. Sometimes it will be best to set out what you are going to try to prove, so that the tribunal can see the point of what you are saying. Other times, it will be best to prepare the ground by putting the evidence first. Or your conclusion may not make sense until some other matters are explained.

Quite often, it will just not matter.

Do avoid, however, trying to put a conclusion in the middle of your argument.

Mr Smith, who investigated the alleged misconduct did not carry out a proper investigation. He failed to speak to Ms Sampson or Mr Plummer, who would have told him that Ms Jones was with them, in the back office, when the incident took place. Ms Jones’ dismissal was therefore unfair. Mr Smith also failed to examine the relevant CCTV footage, which would have confirmed Ms Jones’ account.

This is just confusing. The conclusion gets lost in a muddle of other points. It also become difficult to see what the CCTV point is about. Is it more evidence of a bad investigation? Or is it a new, and separate point?

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