Big Legal Brain make I laff. Their top 3 powerfully meaningless phrases are:
“Though this is not true”
“Throughout all of human history” and
“When all is said and done”
These (they say) are the kinds of phrases you can stash away and rely on to bolster an argument without really saying anything. I definitely wouldn’t be seen dead wearing on of those!
However, spoofs aside, all advocates do have their stock phrases and hyperbole does have it’s place (you have to do something to get the Mags to prick up their ears after all). These phrases fall in and out of fashion, you add a new one you heard somewhere, you drop another that doesn’t hit the spot…but there are certain turns of phrase that are familiar and effective depending on your own advocacy style. They aren’t just for dramatic effect either. When you are thinking on your feet you are constructing sentences as you go, and sometimes you need a phrase that will buy you some processing time.
I’m struggling to think of what my verbal tics are, but I know I have them – as I hear them tumbling out of my mouth I think to myself, “There I go again, I ALWAYS say that”. Unusually, I heard myself yesterday waxing lyrical about how a placement order is THE MOST DRACONIAN of orders that a court is empowered to make and it is therefore essential that the court has the very best of evidence before making a decision (it worked actually).
This puts me in mind of how me and my mates at University had standing challenge to get the word “lumberjack” into all exam papers. I managed to weave it quite neatly into one exam answer, notwithstanding the fact that I was afflicted with terrible tonsillitis and dripping sweat onto my paper (I wish I could remember what the paper was and how I did it). Whilst I live with the sneaking suspicion that perhaps it was only me who was foolish enough to act on this challenge, it has happily enabled me ever since to claim a reason unconnected with either ability or diligence for my failure to obtain a first. Perhaps I should try and convince my colleagues at the bar that they should try and sneak the word “lumberjack” into their submissions? (“My client works all night and sleeps all day, your Honour – indeed one might compare him to a lumberjack”? “The Petitioner finds it intolerable to live with the Respondent because he dresses up in women’s clothes, and would insist on singing the lumberjack song loudly each time she tried to address their marital differences”? Or “Throughout all of human history Fathers have worked hard to feed their families, whether as lumberjacks or postmen or bankers. When all is said and done, my client is no different'”). Double points if it makes it into the judgment? When all is said and done, perhaps not.