Going to court can be anxiety inducing, especially if you’re not used to the courtroom or standing in front of a judge. Many people opt to hire a lawyer to do the heavy lifting in order to avoid finding themselves tongue-tied in front of the judge or their opponent. Because we have gotten quite a few inquiries regarding this topic over the years, we have put together a guide to help you make a great first impression in the courtroom.
1. Don’t miss your court hearing. If you are summoned to court and miss your court date or time, the judge will more than likely rule against you, while adding court fees to your sentencing. If you have been summoned to court, be sure to arrive 20 to 30 minutes early so you can find the correct room you have been assigned to. Some sage advice we once received is that “on time is late”. If you are the party that filed the lawsuit and you miss the hearing date, the judge will likely throw out your case.
2. Make use of the internet as your personal resource. The internet will be your best friend when it comes to court room preparation. Learn some of the legal jargon that is used in court so you don’t have to ask the judge to explain common lingo to you. We also recommend watching a few trials that may be similar to your case. By doing this, you may gather more information regarding how to handle your case if you are representing yourself. Knowing what to expect will allow you to remain calm when it comes to presenting your case and hearing the judge’s ruling.
3. Be prepared to represent yourself in front of a jury. In many cases, either party of a lawsuit can request a jury to be present for the hearing. If the plaintiff or defendant requests a jury, you will have to deal with the jury whether you want to or not. If you are representing yourself a jury can often work against you, while also making your lawsuit more complex and tedious. You will have to follow a certain set of jury rules that a judge might otherwise ignore on their own. That said, keep in mind that juries are often more swayed by emotions like sympathy than by cold, hard evidence.
If a jury is requested, you will likely have to do the following:
- Make an opening statement in front of the jury
- Attend the jury selection process
- Submit jury instructions
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4. Learn the rules. Every court (and judge) has a set of rules that you must follow. To be well prepared for the courtroom in which your case will be heard (and the presiding Judge), ask the court clerk to help you understand what the Judge requires in terms of courtroom decorum and behavior. For example, some Judges will let you address the court from a seated position, while others make you stand. Trust us, there is nothing worse than being reprimanded by a Judge for failing to follow the particular rules of his/or courtroom.
5. Be respectful in the courtroom. Temper tantrums or emotional outbursts won’t get you far in court. Keep composed, calm, collected and remain respectful. Address the judge as “your honor” rather than “mister/misses”. Be polite to your opponent as well as the judge. Do not, under any circumstance, interrupt the judge or your opponent (unless it is to object, which, of course, is a very particular legal skill). It is often a test of patience to hear your opponent’s side of the story, but remember that you will have a chance to tell your side of the story — outbursts will only irritate the judge. Another major key to being respectful is to dress appropriately. The courtroom is not your living room on a lazy Sunday or a night out at the club. If you have to question certain outfit choices, chances are it’s likely not appropriate for court. In a perfect world, your outfit choices would not matter, but the world is not perfect and neither is your judge.
We hope these tips will help you stay calm and prepared on judgement day. If you do not feel ready for court after doing an appropriate amount of research regarding your hearing, you may want to consider hiring a lawyer that can put your case together and present it skillfully.
The Parrish Law Firm offers a free consultation for your injury or car accident related case. Contact us at (571) 229 – 1800 or here to set up a free consultation today.