Volume 1 in a Client Management series by Jeanne Sockle
Think back to your very first exposure to a court room as an attorney. Remember how intimidating the setting was and how unsure you felt about how you were supposed to look and behave. As with many professions, our processes, procedures, behavior, and even the familiarity with the courtroom, become second nature to us over time. However, most of our clients are venturing into totally unknown territory.
Without a doubt, there is a certain etiquette and decorum expected within our halls of justice.
Without a doubt, there is a certain etiquette and decorum expected within our halls of justice. Anyone appearing in our courts who shows a level of respect for the legal institution in their appearance and behavior is certainly going to fare far better than those who do not.
Our clients are not always aware of the importance of this fact. Even if they are, they may choose to ignore it as a form of rebellion against the legal system. And, of course, our culture as a whole, has moved significantly in the direction of more casual attire and less respect for authority. Problems arise when our clients fail to recognize that they may be hurting their own cause by making a less than favorable impression on the court.
Counseling our clients is one aspect, of many, in our duty to appropriately represent them
Counseling our clients is one aspect, of many, in our duty to appropriately represent them, and have them well-prepared to make a good impression in their court appearances.
The following is a primer that we have developed and use to educate our clients in preparing for court and other legal proceedings. Obviously, this material should be used in conjunction with repeated conversations with your client about what you and others may expect of them. Additionally, the client should be well-informed of any specific requirements of your court and well-prepared for their testimony.
Having a well-prepared and well-informed client is always going to work to your advantage
Having a well-prepared and well-informed client is always going to work to your advantage and just might make the difference between a win and a loss. It is our job to do the most we can to ensure the best outcome for our clients. Sometimes that means counseling them on issues that seem outside the realm of our legal skills, but it is still important advice that can make a big difference in how our client is perceived.
Again, you are encouraged to discuss these issues candidly with your client
Again, you are encouraged to discuss these issues candidly with your client; a handout may never be read. It may take a little extra time and effort on your part. But, that investment will likely pay off nicely and it is certainly easier than trying to change a bad impression left by your client or overturn a unfavorable ruling based on an poorly perceived or poorly controlled client.
Jeanne, co-founder and managing partner of Divorce Lawyers for Men, is a successful civil litigator who has focused her legal practice on complex litigation, primarily catastrophic injury and wrongful death lawsuits. She has served as a member and Chair of the Washington State Bar Association Law Clerk Board, as a Thurston County Family Court Child Advocate, and as a founding member of the Thurston County Volunteer Legal Clinic.