The Role of The Advocate
The word advocacy has been used a lot in recent years. I have been an advocate for quite some time and feel I have a unique perspective of the subject.
Let us look at what an advocate is. The dictionary says an advocate is one who pleads the cause of another. That opens up the question of what steps does the advocate take?
First, of course, they need a person to represent. They must listen to what the problem is about, they are not there to judge either party, they must listen objectively, ask any questions and they must understand completely what it is about. Many times I have heard cases and it is a simple thing of communication. It can be a case that information they received is put into language they are not used to.
When it comes to representing, gaining clients’ permission is of prime importance. The body then must be informed that you are the person’s representation and that can be done in various ways, by writing or by phone.
I had one client who after I had explained everything and helped them compose a letter, was able to represent themselves.
There is one important piece of advice to any person who is an advocate; never take on a case that is beyond your field. I was once asked to represent a person in a child care case, they wanted their son back. I told my client that I did not have enough knowledge in that area. I would say just because you have had many successes never think you can swim in a pool of sharks.
You must always be supportive of the client but encourage them to talk and be completely honest with them, it’s no good telling them it’s an open and shut case, even though I have heard many of them. You should also train the client how to talk in the tribunal or meeting.
Personally, I would say role-play is the best tool in that area.
When you meet the organisation or tribunal never go in waving the rights, you are there as the client’s representative, not to have a fight.
Below are some useful ways to prepare yourself as an advocate:
- Know the case
- Know the company or organisation
- Have patience, some people can talk forever. The advocate should try to be as brief as possible whilst making sure they express everything that is needed
- Bring with you the reasons why the decision is wrong, it’s no good just saying this is unjust. Tell them why it is in this case.
I would finally say never treat the organisation as the enemy, in the majority of cases they are tied into the protocol. You must advocate saying why the procedures are wrong.
A command of the English language is a useful tool for an advocate. Many times reasons for decisions are couched behind jargon, if you understand those terms you can find the counterargument.
Finally I think you need to be adaptable and a quick thinker, a few times I entered a place with my plan already marked out and I was thrown a curveball; if I was not a quick thinker I think the case would have been lost.
The role is not a,b,c but if you follow the hints I have put here, you will be prepared for all eventualities.
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