NAVIGATING THE COURTROOM Battling Your Fears and First-Day Jitters
A s a lawyer, I know a lot about the law. That might seem pointless to say, but some of my clients tend to forget that I can be a resource to them during their case process. I also tend to forget that my clients are not experts at law. They don’t understand the timeline of a case or much of the terminology we routinely use. As we go through the process though, I want my clients to know that I’m there to help them. Not understanding how case proceedings go or how court works can lead to unnecessary fears among clients. I’ve even had clients duck out of cases right as they were nearing trial because fear overcame them. Most people don’t see a courtroom on a daily basis, and their only insight into it is from TV. (Please don’t believe any of that is real.) So, not only is the room itself daunting, but the motions, filings, and everything leading up to trial can be confusing and scary. Even as a lawyer, I’ve had my fair share of confusing moments. Law school doesn’t prepare you to be a real lawyer. It teaches you to think like a lawyer. “Fake it till you make it” should be the tagline of all first-year lawyers as they smile and nod their way through countless tasks they don’t really understand. Any veteran lawyer can recognize the smile plastered on a panicked young lawyer as the sweat trickles down their brow. I’ll never forget the first time I had to take a case to court. In the judicial system, any time you file something or are scheduling a time in court, you have to let the other side know. With that notice comes proof that you served it. In this particular case, that proof was in the form of a certified mail green card.
up to the packed courtroom on the day of the hearing with my stomach in knots and my face as pale as a ghost. My case happened to be the last the judge was hearing that day, and when it came time for it, the judge and I were the only ones in the room.
“This will be a cakewalk,” I thought. “The other party didn’t even show!”
The judge looked at me and asked if I had my green card. Stupidly, I responded, “No, Judge. I was born here.” Needless to say, without the other side there due to my mistake, the hearing didn’t happen that day. The judge was a good person, and she only gave me a good ribbing about it. To this day, she never lets me forget it. I even represented her later in an insurance case. Every lawyer has their own horror stories, and I’ve had plenty more. I remember on my first day as a judge, I completely forgot to read instructions for the jury — a key part to ensuring a fair jury trial. Some good-natured lawyers clued me in, fortunately in private, and we kept going. Even as the experts, lawyers get nervous sometimes, but we’re lucky enough to keep practicing and working through our fears. We know what it’s like to make a mistake or be nervous in front of a judge because we’ve experienced it. If you’re not sure about what the next steps are in your case or don’t understand what a motion means, don’t hesitate to ask! We went to law school to, or course, learn these steps and help you.
And if you feel weird about it, we can share our own embarrassing stories to lighten the mood.
I was filing a summary judgment for my first hearing, which meant the opposing side had 21 days after the filing date to prepare for court. I showed
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