Last week , a young lawyer had a first court appearance . Fear seeped in after years of college and law school . Uncertainty was the mood of the day . Few law schools truly prepare a lawyer for their first court appearance . I was lucky. I clerked for a Nashville trial judge and felt comfortable in the court room from day one . My first words were stay calm . No one knows it is your first time but you. I thought about the issue and asked the question on Twitter asking for more feedback . Here are some of the responses ;
- From David Anthony , Get there early , stay off your I-phone and watch other lawyers was his tips.
- From Steven Waterkotte , Be confident, don’t be afraid to ask questions, and know they every lawyer in the courtroom was once in your position.
- From Jason Lamm , Be prepared and breathe .
- From Josh Lee , Go watch that court in action at least once ahead of time. It makes a huge difference.
All the tips were great . I believe in being real. if you have to , let the court know it is your first court appearance . I once told the jury in voir dire it was my first jury trial. When the jury came back , the foreman winked at me and the not guilty verdict was announced. My tip is be real. I I really like Josh Lee’s comment. Most sports teams do a scouting report on the opposing team. Why not go to the court room and check out the judge .See the court room. imagine being at the podium. All the comments were on the money.
Here are my thoughts ;
1. Get the scouting report on the court , your opponent and the key issue of the case.
2. On the ride to the court house , visualize your argument or examination of the witness.
3.Don’t be afraid to ask another lawyer . Heck , ask them to be your mentor. I still have one that I go to for advice.
4.Be Real . Be yourself . No lawyer tricks. Just your argument and your feelings on why you should win.
I know it is scary when you step into that courtroom for the first time and your case is called. Stand up announce yourself and have no fear.