Going to court for your first case is a massive milestone in any legal practitioner’s professional life, but it can also be intimidating. Eventually, suiting up and appearing in court will become second nature. However, it will take you some time to reach that comfort level. The level of formality that attorneys need to adopt inside a courtroom forces them to take their job seriously. Use these tips for representing your first ever client in a court.
Whether you’ve been working in a role that doesn’t require you to go to court, or you’ve just received your practicing license, your first court appearance is going to be nerve-wracking. It doesn’t matter if you’re starting with a summary judgment hearing or a motion to compel.
That said, you have to ensure that you follow a few court appearance best practices. Doing so will enable you to avoid any legal backlash from the opposing attorney, which will allow you to represent your first-ever client the best way you possibly can. So, follow the tips mentioned below to ensure that your first-ever visit to the courtroom goes as smoothly as possible.
The courtroom isn’t someplace you can try out the latest fashion trends. So, you have to keep your dressing as formal and conservative as possible. You will require a lawyer’s robe when attending an appeal, motion, or trial at the supreme court, federal court, the court of appeal, or superior court. That said, the typical legal attire includes skirts with nylons, charcoal, or black pants, winged collar shirt, cufflinks, robe, waistcoat, and black shoes.
Also, don’t forget that proper legal dress is the equivalent of a school uniform. (we aren’t saying you wear the same clothes again and again). Wear something that enables you to avoid any unnecessary attention, especially from the court. Strict judges are known to hold attorneys in contempt of court when they show up ins something the judge doesn’t consider as ‘formal.’
Acquire a specialized law degree.
If you’ve just finished law school and acquired your first client, then you will undoubtedly need to be up-to-speed with the latest law trends. Therefore, obtaining a specialized law degree is the best option to achieve the confidence required to handle challenging situations. That said, aspiring lawyers can choose from various degree options as all of these serve different purposes.
For example, if you want to become a lawyer in the United States, acquiring a Juris Doctor(JD) is the first step. It is the first degree that takes around three years to complete. In contrast, the significant difference between an LLM v JD is that an LLM is a more specialized law degree available to those who already hold a law degree, such as a bachelor’s of Law or JD.
That said if you want to remain up-to-date with the latest law trends and best practices, acquiring an LLM is the way to go. It also provides aspiring lawyers with advanced training and allows them to pursue more specialized law fields such as healthcare law.
Don’t be late.
Try to reach the court as early as possible. Typically courts work on a first-come first-heard basis. So, nothing wrong can come from being early, other than longer waiting times, of course. But, a longer wait will always be better than being held in contempt of court for arriving late.
To avoid such circumstances, you should arrive at least an hour before your hearing time.
Know when to start.
It can be highly stressful to appear in court for the first time. However, it would be best if you tried to remain calm to avoid any added stress. Firstly, approach the registrar and ask him or her to search for your matters on the matter list. Next, ask the registrar to provide you with counsel slips for the issues you’re appearing for and fill them out accurately.
Lastly, introduce yourself to the opposing counsel and then grab a seat at the gallery or the counsel table until the judge calls your matter or case.
Be Polite in court.
When you first arrive at court, the best thing you can do is be polite to everyone present, whether the clerk, registrar, or opposing attorney. Judges will know how you treat their staff and conduct yourself in court, so be mindful of such a thing when striking up a conversation with anyone inside the courtroom.
Also, you should note that most clerks have the power to adjust your schedule. So, when a clerk likes you and finds you well-mannered, your first court appearance will go a lot smoother. But, on the other hand, it will make your day a whole lot complicated if he or she sees you mean, arrogant, or rude.
Use the term’ your honor’ to address the judge.
When the judge enters the courtroom, stand up as it shows that you respect authority. Furthermore, always wait for your turn to speak. Finally, always respond with ‘no your honor’ or ‘yes your honor’ when the judge asks you a yes or no question.
And always avoid using words such as ‘with all due respect.’ Judges hate these words. Always mind your manner in front of the judge when speaking on your client’s behalf.
Acquiring your first-ever client while working as an attorney is a considerable achievement, no matter what. However, when it comes to representing them in court for the first time, you need to take preparatory measures and avoid leaving everything to the last minute.
Things can go from bad to worse if you leave everything to the last minute. After all, it is all about leaving a good first impression on future clients and, most importantly, the judge.