Personal Reflection. The advocate's calling

AuthorGuy J. Pratte
e avca’ callin
It is a singular honour for me to assume the Milvain Chair in Advocacy
for 2013, particularly as I look at the list of previous incumbents, from
John J. Robinette through to Sheila Block and Linda Rothstein, along with
many others.
Only a great jurist and mentor like Chief Justice Milvain could have
inspired the creation of this remarkable advocacy program in 1979– one
of the rst, if not the rst, of its kind in Canada. As the advocate’s craft has
a history of more than 2,000 years, going back to at least Roman times
and Cicero, it should go without saying that I have no ambition today of
revealing some secret recipe that will ensure you win all your cases.
And, just in case I were tempted to deceive myself– and you– into
thinking that my experience as an advocate could be a source of unique
wisdom, I keep in a well-lit corner of my mind, etched in bold letters,
Abraham Lincoln’s reminder in the notes he prepared in 1850 for a lec-
ture on the practice of law: “I am not an accomplished lawyer. I nd
quite as much material for a lecture on those points where I have failed,
as in those where I have been moderately successful.”1
In fact, I will not discuss advocacy skills as such: that is the proper
subject of the course many of you are taking. Nor have I come here
1 S. Sheppard, ed., The History of Legal Education in the United States: Commentaries
and Primary Sources (Pasadena: Salem Press, 1999) at 489 [Sheppard].

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