The power of context

AuthorBenjamin Zarnett
g WINTER 2010
he pwer f cntext
Much has been written, from many dierent perspectives,
about good advocacy. Experienced advocates have described
their own habits and practices, implicitly inviting emulation.
Judges have pointed out what impresses them. Still others have detailed
the misadventures of bad advocates, suggesting the possibility that one
can reverse-engineer a good advocate by avoiding the pitfalls of an atro-
cious one.1
One comes away from reading about good advocacy struck by the
variety of things one could or should do to achieve it. That impression
is reinforced, at least for me, by years of working with and litigating
against advocates who are superb yet who have dierent intellectual
backgrounds, personalities and natural gifts, and who apply dierent
skills. Yet despite the variety there is, for me, a certain mode of thinking,
a core belief, that seems to be shared by those who excel in advocacy. To
be a good advocate, one must believe in the power of context.
Context is the raw material of advocacy. It consists, to name only
a few examples, of those facts that put bad facts in perspective; of the
language in other parts of the contract that illuminates a contentious
term’s meaning; of the array of indicators of legislative meaning that
helps to interpret the statutory provision in question; of those facts that
1 Some of the best writing on advocacy is collected in Ethos, Pathos, and Logos: The
Best of the Advocates’ Society Journal, 1982–2004 (Toronto: Irwin Law, 2005).

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT