Bar Vocational Course Opinion Writing Introductory Lecture
What is an opinion? A document prepared by a barrister that states his or her advice on various issues arising in a case. Aimed at both the lay and professional clients
What issues? Liability (Chances of success) Evidence Solutions – legal and practical Procedure and next steps Further information required
Why have opinions? Barrister is a specialist in an area of law & their expertise is required. Solicitor does not have time to do the research themselves. Outside agency (typically community legal service) requires the solicitor to obtain one. To genuinely obtain a second opinion where legal issues or other issues are not clear.
What an opinion is not An academic piece of writing Usually no need to describe the law – apply the law to the facts of the case As a “rule of thumb” there are 3 exceptions to the “don’t describe law” rule. (i) When the law is specialist or esoteric (ii) When the law is recent (iii) When a case to case comparison is required
Language Given that an opinion is a “working document” language should be: (i) Precise (ii) Clear (iii) Concise
Opinion Structure Heading – see chapter in A Practical Guide to Lawyering Skills Confirmation of Instructions Material Facts Conclusion
Opinion Structure (cont’d) Liability (Evidence/Further Information/Chances of success) “Solutions” – legal and practical Next Steps List of Further Information General Advert etc
Further Information Main Body (i)What exactly (ii)Why (iii)How to get it List Only need to repeat (i) and (iii)
Opinion Format Paragraphs…. ….of a sensible length Each and every paragraph should be numbered Paragraph numbering – 1, 2, 3 etc 1.1, 1.2, 1.3 etc permissible, but unnecessary unless a very long opinion Numbering “a la” Stockdale not permissible!
Opinion Format (cont’d) Lists – should not use bullet-points but be numbered (i),(ii) etc or “lettered” (a),(b) etc Subheadings – should be “context specific” for ease of navigation
How taught? Usual SPS format – run through opinion together “Marking” SPSs – written feedback on script to be kept for the Professional Ethics File “Mock” Assessment –mimicking the format of the real assessment. Written feedback from tutor to be kept for Professional Ethics File Final “Tutorial” SPS
How Assessed? 1 “Unseen” assessment Some advance information 2 weeks’ beforehand 4 hour exam where one gets the full brief