Divorce Lawyer Courtroom Etiquette
Going to court is similar to going to church. Following many of the same rules on etiquette should make things much simpler.
Before going to court, there are a few important rules a divorce lawyer must follow. While it may seem simple and over-stressed, dress properly. For a male, anything other than a suit and tie is inappropriate for a court appearance. Your tie should be straight, shirt tucked, and clothing ironed. This exudes professionalism and organization.
The second overly stressed advice is that the attorney must show up early. Nothing ticks off a judge more than having a divorce lawyer show up late for court. Judges often find themselves delegating to their staff, the job of tracking down no-show attorneys. This takes away from the matter before the court, and puts the judge in the position of baby sitter. Showing up late for court is not only disrespectful, but is also grounds for contempt. Penalties for contempt can include jail-time. Showing up early for your hearing lets the judge know, you respect the court and that you are an organized person. A word for the wise: don’t show up late for court.
After you’ve timely arrived at court, demonstrate yourself with decorum. Often times, attorneys find themselves arguing amongst each other rather than directing their comments to the court. When a divorce lawyer engages in such squabble, it gives the appearance that the attorney is ignorant of the rules of court and ineffective as an orator. Furthermore, your client is most likely sitting there telling himself, “Is this what I paid for?” You have a duty to vigorously represent your client. When a client observes his attorney being scolded by the judge for not following directions, the client is almost always left with a bad taste in his mouth. While you may disagree with what opposing counsel is stating, do not interrupt him. You will have time to set forth your argument. When given your time, direct you comments to the court, and not to opposing counsel. Do not speak over objections. While these simple demonstrations of decorum are not only professional and courteous, they are required. Not only does it show the court that you are professional, it lets the client know that you know how to operate professionally and effectively. So when you have the urge to lash out at opposing counsel in open court, bite your tongue. It will go a long way.
Finally, a divorce lawyer must show up to court prepared. Not only must he be well-versed in the law, he must also be well-versed in the facts of the case. Nothing is more embarrassing than having to answer “I don’t know” when the judges asks you a factual question about the case. This sends the message to the court that you may be incompetent. The client will certainly not be thrilled. All attorneys do not prepare alike. Some go to court with a thick binder; others show up with a legal pad. Whichever way allows you to know the facts of the case like the back of your hand is the way in which you should prepare. It assures the client that you are on top of their case and mostly likely will ease their stress.
At the end of the day, your client chose you because he felt that you are competent enough to achieve his desired results. A divorce lawyer must strive to live up to this expectation by preparing thoroughly. Being unprepared can lead to disastrous results such as legal malpractice or even a bar complaint. But the good news is that you can prevent that by simply being prepared. You will earn the respect of your client, the judge, and maybe even your co-counsel.
The above article is informational. It is not professional legal advice, so please do not view it as such. Will Beaumont is an attorney and is only licensed in Louisiana. He has an office in New Orleans and has an office in Metairie.
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