UCL Faculty of Laws


Modern Advocacy and Classical Rhetoric (LAWS0121)

This course examines the basic principles of advocacy – the art of arguing persuasively on behalf of others. Advocacy is central to what modern lawyers (and many other professionals) do.

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The main object of this course is to provide a grounding in effective advocacy. The course draws heavily on classical rhetoric, the art of persuasion developed by the ancient Greeks and Romans from the fifth century BC. The classical rhetoricians, of whom Aristotle, Cicero, and Quintilian are probably the best known, sought to explain not only what persuades people, but also how to prepare persuasive speeches. Central to this module is the idea that much of what they said remains relevant today.

Like classical rhetoric, this course combines theory and practice. The theoretical element comprises ancient and modern theories about persuasion, particularly in the context of legal disputes. The practical element involves analysing examples of real-life advocacy, including oral and written submissions in recent English court proceedings. There is, unfortunately, insufficient time for students to practise oral advocacy in class.

The course convenor has been a practising barrister in London for over 20 years, specialising in commercial litigation and arbitration.

Module syllabus

This module is subject to change.

The main topics covered by this course are as follows:

  • History of classical rhetoric
  • Ancient and modern meanings of 'rhetoric'
  • Means of persuasion, particularly reason, character, and emotion
  • Creating persuasive arguments
  • Arranging documents and speeches
  • Written and oral style
  • Memorising speeches and aids to memory
  • Delivery technique

Recommended materials

Module reading lists and other materials will be provided via online module pages, once students have selected the course on enrolment.

Preliminary reading

For a light-hearted introduction to classical rhetoric and its application to modern (American) advocacy, see Sandler, Epps and Waicukauski, Classical Rhetoric and the Modern Trial Lawyer, 36 Litigation 2 (Winter 2010), available online at the American Bar website.

Key information

Module details
Credit value:15 credits (7.5 ECTS, 150 learning hours)
Convenor:David Pope
Other Teachers:None
Teaching Delivery:10 x 2-hour weekly seminars, Term Two
Who may enrol:LLM students only
Must not be taken with:None
Qualifying module for:LLM in Litigation and Dispute Resolution
Practice Assessment:Opportunity for feedback on one optional practice essay
Final Assessment:Exam (100%)