The Keble Dutton course – the more concise name for the official course title, The South Eastern Circuit, Tim Dutton CBE KC, Advanced International Advocacy Course – honours its founder, Tim Dutton CBE KC, and its base at Keble College, Oxford.

The inspiration? A pivotal experience with the US National Institute of Trial Advocacy (NITA). In a recent interview with current course director Sarah Clarke KC (herself a participant on the course in 1999), Dutton recounts: ‘The problem we had 30 years ago was there was no quality advanced advocacy training at the Bar, but there had been for many years quality advanced advocacy training in the United States where senior trial lawyers had appreciated that there was a lack of high quality throughout the system. There needed to be a training system put in place here.’

The need for advocacy training at the Bar was compounded by changes in the profession. By 1990, opportunities opened up for solicitors in England to become higher rights advocates, which created a new competitive landscape for the Bar. This prompted solicitors to enlist trainers from the Bar, including Tim himself, to offer training to City firms. This experience highlighted the need for advanced courses for the Bar.

Dutton recounts a pivotal moment that came ‘one winter’s evening in 1993 at our house in Pimlico, when we sat down with David Penry-Davey who was then the Leader of the South Eastern Circuit... He was persuaded that we needed a one week residential course... He turned to me and said, “Will you put on a one week residential course next year?” And I said, “Yes, we will.” That’s how we got going.’

This year, the Keble Dutton course is celebrating its 30th anniversary. To mark the significant milestone, the course held a grand dinner at Keble College, hosting guests including the Lady Chief Justice, Chairs of both the Bar Council and Bar Standards Board, Leader of the South-Eastern Circuit, and a number of other renowned figures and key players in the course’s creation and history.

Course dynamics

Positioned as the benchmark for advocacy training, the Keble Dutton course is more than just an academic exercise. Taking place in the last week of August each year, participants are immersed in an intensive environment, challenged daily to hone their advocacy skills.

With a wide spectrum of exercises, from written and oral advocacy to handling expert witnesses, the course films every advocacy exercise. This visual feedback, combined with feedback both immediate and private, offers participants a tailored and comprehensive view of their strengths and areas of improvement. Performance coaches are on hand throughout the week to provide private sessions for each advocate and the end of the week culminates in mock trials, where the advocates put together everything they have learned.

Beyond the rigorous training, camaraderie develops. The collaborative spirit, enhanced by the global participation from countries like Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia South Africa, and Hong Kong, fosters both learning and lasting friendships.

Mentorship beyond borders

A distinguishing feature of the course is its faculty. Comprising domestic and international judges, silks, and senior juniors, the faculty’s expertise, supplemented by training specifically designed for the course, ensures that participants receive world-class instruction.

This faculty isn’t just about teaching. They mentor, adapt, and innovate. Drawing inspiration from global teaching methodologies like the Hampel method and integrating approaches from the South African Bar, they ensure the course remains fresh, relevant, and invaluable.

Impact on participants

The impact of the course on its participants has been profound and sometimes surprising. John’s journey, for example, was one of personal transformation: ‘I have learned that I need to relax and be more myself as an advocate rather than pretending I am a barrister because my group teacher has instilled in me a confidence that I hope is going to keep on growing.’

Echoing these sentiments, Leila emphasises the course’s multifaceted benefits: ‘I have learned three things. First, things that I wasn’t good at before, I am better at now. Second – what I was already good at, I now approach with more confidence. And third – the most surprising realisation was how the course became a space of enjoyment and learning for me. With engaging tutors, diverse peers, including international students, I gained insights from varied jurisdictions. This unexpected knowledge from different legal systems was a delightful bonus.’

Drawing attention to the course’s universal applicability, Albert shares his overseas perspective: ‘It was amazing. What I learned is immediately transferrable to when I go back to Hong Kong and practice.’

Lastly, Sarah’s journey sheds light on initial resistance turning into appreciation: ‘I endured it to start with and then I got into the rhythm of it, understanding the process and eventually embracing it. I believe it’s been immensely beneficial. The international element, involving both tutors and participants, added a valuable dimension. Different perspectives, even from diverse jurisdictions, offer a refreshing viewpoint, making the experience unique.’

Legacy and vision

It is notable that both the course’s current director and the current Leader of the South Eastern Circuit (Leon Kazakos KC) are both former Keble Dutton participants. The course actively encourages and hopes to inspire its participants to train as advocacy trainers with their Inns and in due course to come and train at Keble. As Clarke puts it: ‘Without this course, and advocacy training more generally, the Bar of England and Wales will have no longevity. We need to continue to lead the way in promoting and ensuring high standards of advocacy. We want the next generation to see what we are doing here and to say, “I want to be part of that.”’ 

‘Clarity, conciseness and engagement’ Takeaways from Keble Dutton 2023
A clear communicator builds trust and streamlines proceedings – bring more clarity to your advocacy
1. Be precise: Ambiguity can be a lawyer’s worst enemy in court.
2. Pay attention to your structure. Organise with thought. Sometimes chronological order will be the best way forward. On another occasion, it may be better in your particular case to go by issues or events.
3. Simplify complex ideas: Clarity translates legal complexities into understandable terms.
In an age of information overload, brevity becomes a superpower – conciseness enhances understanding and a succinct advocate projects confidence and professionalism
1. Avoid repetition: While certain points need emphasis, avoid saying the same thing in multiple ways. It not only wastes time but can also dilute the impact of your argument.
2. Edit: A trial lawyer’s primary role is to present their client’s case in the most understandable and compelling manner. Lengthy, convoluted arguments can confuse the jury or judge, reducing the chances of a favourable outcome.
3. Practise active listening: Conciseness isn’t just about speaking; it’s also about listening. By actively listening to opposing counsel, witnesses, and especially the judge’s questions, a lawyer can tailor their responses to be direct and relevant.
Increase engagement – an engaged jury or judge is receptive one
1. Tell a story: Every case has a narrative. Weaving this narrative seamlessly can capture and sustain attention It humanizes legal arguments and enhances retention.
2. Utilise visual audio aids: People remember more when they use more than one of their senses and in a courtroom where the majority of information is delivered orally.
3. Practise your delivery: Saying words aloud provides an opportunity to refine your advocacy. You can also choose when to modulate your voice and emphasise important points as a monotone can lull listeners into inattention.
Keble Dutton course scholarships

Each Inn of Court offers five scholarships to members of the Bar of England and Wales who practise predominantly in publicly funded work. Each scholarship pays the course fees. Applying for a scholarship is a short and simple process. Details are available from:

To hear more about the creation of the Keble Dutton course watch Tim Dutton CBE KC’s video interview with Sarah Clarke KC or listen to the podcast.