First Place in Essay Writing Competition: THE BATTLE BETWEEN ORAL AND WRITTEN LEGAL ADVOCACY (AND WHERE I STAND) by Nana Araba Plange

The rule of binaries is such that there is always a conflict of opposites, evident in the

very structure of reality. That is to say, to every phenomenon that arises there would be

an “other”. Succinctly put, To every action, there is a reaction. But that is science and

we are not here for that. In law, specifically in legal advocacy, binaries are always at

play in a courtroom where there are two opposing sides in a battle of “versus”. However,

today, the battle is between oral and written legal advocacy.

To the average person, the word lawyer conjures an image of the sharp-suited Harvey

Specter, the ball-busting Annalise Keating, or even the comedy-relieving Lawyer Nti – or

any other movie or TV show equivalent really. This is because oral advocacy is and has

always been the poster boy in legal advocacy. It is a career-defining trait for a lawyer to

be able to expressly command a courtroom and weave around it in a persuasive

diatribe while being the one thing standing between a client and the long arm of (in most

cases) rightly deserved justice.

Written advocacy is more subdued, involves a lot more paperwork and behind the

scenes in research, structuring, writing and re-writing. This is to make sure there is a

presentation of coherent and well-structured arguments. If done properly it helps give

clarity by exposing the strengths and weakness of an argument even before it gets to a

courtroom. It is one of the first skills every lawyer and law student develops.

I suppose it is well enough to concede that both oral and written advocacy have their

merits, but even in binaries, 1 is one more than 0. The advantage of written advocacy

over oral advocacy cannot be overlooked. Written advocacy has more roots. In other

words, there is more opportunity to plan and present arguments in a more cohesive

manner. Also, written advocacy is the blueprint for oral advocacy. Having a good oral

argument almost always depends on a strong written argument, the opposite is not

always true.

If legal advocacy were a 2000s American High School trope, you could say written

advocacy is the nerd who always does the homework for the popular kid (oral

advocacy). But it is 2021 and nerds basically run the world now.