Tips For Appearing in Court
1. Dress the part.
When appearing in court attorneys always wear suits. It is a sign of professionalism and respect for the judge and the judicial process. The courthouse staff knows this and a suit can be a ticket for respectful treatment in a courthouse.
Most people you see at the courthouse will be dressed in casual clothes. You may even see signs detailing a dress code outlawing cut off shorts and bare midriffs. However, I think you can do better.
My advice to my clients in every single case is to dress like a lawyer. That shows that you also have a respect for the court and that you are prepared. It also makes you appear as a more credible witness.
Wear business formal attire or as close to it as you can get. That means suits and ties for men and dress pants or business skirts for women. Your clothes should be conservative with no slogans, logos, or inappropriate messages. Your clothes should also be modest. Shirts should have sleeves, and skirts should be knee length.
2. Be on time. Arrive at least 15 minutes early.
The judge may keep you waiting, but do not keep the judge waiting. There is nothing worse than a stammering lawyer covering for late clients in front of an irate judge. You must appear in the courtroom at the time you were summoned to appear. There is no grace period. Some judges will give you five minutes, but they will not be happy about it Plan to arrive at the courthouse at least 15 to 20 minutes early, so that you will have time to park and pass through security.
3. Leave your weapons at home.
This seems like a redundant piece of nagging I know, but courthouses are always protected by metal detectors and law enforcement officers. Leave all extra personal possessions at home or in your car. If you accidently leave your pocket knife in your pocket, you will have to discard it outside the building before you will be admitted to the courthouse. Law enforcement does not make exceptions even for veteran attorneys they know well.
4. Check your attitude.
This is usually a piece of advice given to teenagers, but in court even adults need it. Courtrooms are government by rules and procedures, and most importantly, a judge. In a courtroom the judge rules all. Be respectful. Do not yell at or interrupt the judge when he or she is talking. You may feel like you need to have your day in court and to get your story told. The best way to do that is take the next piece of advice and trust your attorney to act for you rather than throw a tantrum in a courtroom.
5. Trust your attorney.
If you hired an experienced attorney at from the Advocates, he or she will be seasoned in the courtroom. He or she will know what to do and when to do it in order to get you the best outcome possible. Expect your attorney to be nice to opposing counsel, and to keep their remarks short and to the point. You may have wanted to see a more “Bulldog” approach, but your attorney works in the system day in and day out, and they are doing everything they can to get you the best possible settlement.
6. Always tell the truth.
If you have to give testimony, never perjure yourself. Lawyers have nightmares about clients lying on the stand. Do not be a nightmare for your attorney. Answer questions simply and truthfully to the best of your ability. If you do not know the answer, say, “I don’t know.” If you do not understand the question, ask the attorney or judge to repeat the question or clarify the instructions.
7. Respect the opposing parties.
The worst thing about appearing in court for some people is seeing the other party. Courtrooms are designed to be adversarial on purpose, and it can be hard seeing someone who has hurt you so much.
It is important to remember that civility goes a long way in a courtroom. If you see the opposing party in the parking lot or on the way into the courthouse, be polite and civil no more no less. Hold the door open if it would be polite to do so, but try not to engage in conversation.
Anything you say could come back to haunt you, and you definitely do not want to start a fight. If your relationship is high-conflict, try to avoid the opposing party. Take a different elevator, or take the stairs to avoid awkward encounters.