I’m attending the Alabama State Bar’s annual conference this week. One of the sessions yesterday was with a panel of judges sharing with lawyers what they wish we knew and did differently. Most of them are pretty straightforward, but the first one caught me off guard.
What judges wish you knew and did differently
Don’t wear flip-flops to court – this was not gender specific, and I was embarrassed for the entire profession that this needed to be addressed.
Don’t use lengthy string cites in briefs without explanatory parentheticals. Judges aren’t putting great weight on cases that we don’t bother to explain their relation to our argument.
If there are any cases that are particularly important to your argument, include a copy of the case as an exhibit rather than having the judge go chase it down. Several judges made the point that they don’t have law clerks who they can task with researching caselaw, so it requires their own time. We can make it easier for them to agree with our legal conclusions bey providing them with the cases upon which the foundations of our briefs are build
This next point was addressed as a corollary to the one above: The greater volume of cases you cite that are only weakly supporting your argument, the less likely you are to get a favorable ruling.
Make succinct arguments, both written and oral. Judges have limited time to devote to your case. Make your points and move on to the next subject.
Include proposed order with motions so judges can more easily grant your motion and implement or amend the proposed language.
Don’t interrupt opposing counsel when they’re making oral arguments. You will be given your opportunity to speak.
If you’re client is in court with you, make sure they know you are in charge and informed about the case before court starts.
Lawyers need to maintain civility among one another.
I’ll leave you with this one, which was as surprising to me that it needed to be addressed as was the flip-flop admonition: Show up to court when you have an appearance scheduled.
These are are few of the things judges wish you knew and some things they wish you did differently. Hopefully, you will have found that you are already doing most of these and finding favor in the sight of the judges you’re appearing in front of.
Photo by Phil Roeder.