Now it is your first court appearance, you must be nervous and even don’t know what you are doing. Here are some tips to avoid your novice look and will help you to be prepared for your first court appearance.
1. Mind your Ps and Qs- means mind your manners and language. Behave well with court staff, police, other lawyers and most of all your clients.
2. Try to reach there early and have spoken to your opposing lawyer for the last minute resolution. Such attempts are always grateful even when fruitless.
3. Introduce yourself to your opponent council. Make small talk with them to feel that you were not enemies. Remember the names of your opposing counsel, you can write it on a notepad.
4. Talk to your client in the language they understand and do what you can to show your client that you “get” them and where they are coming from. It is always a fact that a well-informed client seems to be a much more settled client.
5. Some courts are more formal as compared to others, so be prepared with your advocacy style to suit the scene.
6. It is never a good idea to use the phrase, “I demand that Your Honour…” Just don’t use it.
7. Be on time and well prepared. If you are scheduled for 10 am, be ready at 10 am. It is never a good start that you asking for more time. Remember that first impression really does count.
8. Before you start an examination or cross-examination, offer the witness a glass of water. It makes you look considerate and puts them at ease.
9. Never try to ask the clerk what kind of mood the Magistrate is in. They will not tell you.
10. If you are new to a jurisdiction, get to know the forms. Go to the Registry to discuss the most commonly used forms, but do so in the afternoon. The mornings are taken up with getting each courtroom ready for the day.
11. Don’t be afraid to ask the bench clerk for their opinion. They have sat through thousands of hours of hearings and although they must and will remain neutral, they may be able to give you feedback on more practical things, such as where witnesses can wait, whether they think you will be out of there by lunchtime or 4 pm, and how to best display exhibits.
12. If you plan to render something on paper, make sure that you have enough copies for everyone at the bar table, the witness, and the Magistrate, and ensure that the clerk gets the original.
13. If you have lengthy reports to tender, provide copies ahead of time to your learned friends and to the court so that all parties have an opportunity to read those reports outside of the time set aside for the hearing of the case.
14. If you need a projector/DVD player/cd player to play or show your exhibit, let the court know at least a week before the hearing date. It will ensure that the facilities are available to you and prevent needless adjournments.
15. Regardless of the case, believe in your submissions. The court can tell when it’s half-hearted and when you are just going through the motions. Give your client passionate and engaged advocacy.
16. In all of your proposals, start by drawing what you are seeking. The court will be grateful for the “signpost” and it will give your proposals more relevance. Do not wait for the court to ask, “Yes, but what do you want?”
17. Speak slowly and clearly. Make sure the witness understands your question.
18. Be honest with the court about your case and timeframes. If you have 35 witnesses, don’t round it down. If the case runs over and the Judge/Magistrate needs to find time in a very busy diary to finish the case, they will not think highly of you.
19. Stand when addressing the court. Most importantly, keep your phone in silent mode, Face the bench and bow from the waist whenever you enter or leave a sitting courtroom. Do not move a muscle when a witness is being on oath. If the oath is disturbed by anything at all, the clerk must start the swearing in all over again.
If you are free, spend some time to watch some trials and to get familiar with the advocacy styles of different lawyers. Before you go for your first court appearance don’t forget to work hard, talk to your clients and be polite with all your fellow men.
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