Viva Voce is not a Ricky Martin song

Viva Voce is not a Ricky Martin song

Viva Voce is not a Ricky Martin song

A wise man once said to me that the best lawyers can take the most incredibly complex legal issues and explain them in simple, understandable terms. There’s a lot to be said for that. It’s not necessarily about breaking it down for other people for fear of a lack of understanding – it goes to the understanding and skill of the lawyer, which ultimately reduces the magnitude of the issues, paving the way to resolution.

So what of these legal maxims and jargon which people love to throw about from time to time? Prima facie this, viva voce that… Or my personal favourite – mens rea. Am I talking about an element of a crime, or someone’s backside?


It beggars the question – in this day and age, can we do without it? As I cast my mind back to my early Uni days, I recall one particular assignment in which I busted out every maxim and bit of jargon I could muster because that’s what I thought was expected of me. My lecturer took me aside and politely explained that verbosity had fallen out of favour in the wider legal world, and that there had been a move towards concise and simple language. Imagine my surprise! My dreams of posturing from the bar table using my ‘big girl’ words were suddenly dashed! Then it dawned on me – the practise of law should really be about solid legal reasoning; not unreasonable legal language.

Basically, there’s been a wider recognition that clear and effective communication is the way to go. It has nothing to do with oversimplifying the law - it’s about improving efficiency and clarity. One of the collateral benefits of this is that the law is more accessible to all – which is in line with the ethos here at Butlers.

Finally, I will leave you with this little chestnut of wisdom - if you ever find yourself in a situation where someone’s banging on about the delivery of evidence, just remember: viva voce is not a Ricky Martin song; the only thing the two have in common is that they’re both Latin.

Let’s get digital - who owns what?
The Conference

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Tuesday, 17 September 2019