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Views of cross examination from some of the great legal orators

Many of the great legal orators have written down their hints and tips regarding what makes a great cross examination technique or a great cross examiner. As it is always useful to understand what makes somebody great at what they do, I've included their thoughts here.

The first advocate we are going to be looking at is Quintilian. You can find his views on witnesses and witness handling here.

Harris, who wrote both Harris Hints on Advocacy and Illustrations in Advocacy has some useful suggestions pdfregarding cross examination that you can read here.1.01 MB

Harris's Hints on Advocacy is interesting because it claims to be the first book to teach advocacy. Up until then barristers appear to have been left to muddle through as best as they could! It also includes a whole section on how to deal with the different categories of witness. That section you should approach with caution as the views put foward are often a reflection of the social attitudes of the day. For example, female witnesses were often viewed as vacant and voluble; I would really not recommend that any barrister makes sweeping assumptions about the intelligence of half the population in this day and age! That doesn't mean that there isn't some useful information in that section, just that you have to exercise your own judgement on what you are going to take from it, and bear in mind that it does reflect the attitudes of the age in which it was written, so some of it may not be either relevant or appropriate now.

Ballantine, who is one of the three great cross-examiners described by Sir Edward Clarke in his essay "pdfThree Great Cross Examiners"899.28 KB also wrote a chapter in his book "Experiences of a barristers life" giving his views on cross examination and examination in chief. You can find this chapter by clicking pdfhere.3.17 MB

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