You've been thinking about this moment since you began law school or even earlier. It's the moment when you, and only you, are to defend a client by yourself. Meanwhile, you're surrounded by experienced, professional, and seasoned attorneys.
"I'm not nervous," you think, "it's just a little warm in here." You wipe the sweat off your brow with the back of your hand.
It's your first court appearance.
Relax! Others have done it before you and others will do it after you. Everyone in that courtroom was new like you once. In fact, there's been a 15% increase in U.S. lawyers since 2008!
So, it's safe to say you're not alone. There are currently 1,338,678 licensed, active attorneys in America. If they can do it, so can you.
However, it's never bad to have a leg up on the competition. We've compiled some tips that should give you more confidence and ease on your first day in court.
Preparation Before the Hearing
If you're working for a small firm, it's likely that you'll be flying solo in the courtroom. Because of this, you'll need to stay aware of all times, dates, and statuses. Make sure to check the status of your hearing the day before to ensure things are still on.
Know your judge and know your courtroom. Become familiar with the rules of that specific courtroom — this is as easy as looking them up online. Treat all staff in a respectable manner.
Try to learn what you can about the proceeding judge. This will help you read their expressions and tones on the day of the hearing. You can even attend other trials to observe a judge or courtroom beforehand.
It goes without saying that before your hearing, you'll also have done the necessary research, homework, and preparation for your case. You'll have anticipated issues and are ready to address them if need be.
The Day of
Get there on time.
Check in with the court on the designated call sheet. Take note of the numbers that come before yours — that way, by the time your number gets called, you'll be on your feet already. The courts really appreciate someone who respects their time.
Be assertive in your speech during the hearing. Speak slowly, clearly, and don't forget to project your voice. At the same time, you must also know when to stay quiet and choose your battles.
After Your First Hearing
Reputation is everything in this business.
The way you treat court officials, the judge, your clients, opposing counsel. . . This is crucial in having a good reputation among the courts. If you're caught in a lie, or you don't uphold yourself in a professional demeanor, you'll get left behind.
These auto accident lawyers (and the many others) didn't get to where they are by being hasty, rude, or untrustworthy. An attorney must be diligent about upholding good morals and behavior at all times.
First Court Appearance? You've Got This
Think about it — one day this "first" will be behind you. You'll have attended dozens, if not hundreds, of trials, hearings, and meetings. Soon, a court appearance will be just another day for you.
But never let that confidence allow you to falter or stop trying hard.
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