Law School: 10 Tips for Attending Court
The law is all about the courts and judges. After LSAT testing and acceptance by law school admissions, you should make court attendance one of your priorities in your legal education. The work of attorneys gains the force of law once a judge signs the order. A wise law student will seek experience in the local court systems. Here are 10 tips to succeed in court as a law student.
1. Learn what court systems exist in your local area. In most areas, there will be federal courts, federal bankruptcy courts, administrative law courts, state courts, and local courts. State courts may be divided into general and special jurisdictions. Most municipalities and some counties will have courts. Make a list of which courts exist near you. Your goal should be to locate and attend all of these as time permits while in law school.
2. Visit the website of the court you wish to attend. Most federal and state courts will provide a docket on-line giving dates and types of scheduled cases. This is the best way to plan when to visit. There is nothing worse than dressing up and traveling to court to find the docket cleared before court even started. It is better to pick reasonably busy days with full dockets.
3. Dress like an attorney. Once you are in law school, you should act and look like an attorney when you are around practicing attorneys. You want to give the people you meet the impression that you have what it takes to work in their field. Do not go in looking like a college student. Look like a professional. Some courts will not allow you to enter wearing shorts or other casual clothes.
4. Arrive an hour before court is to be in session. Many judges resolve certain types of issues in chambers before the docket call. If you are lucky, you’ll get a chance to meet the judge before things get busy. You may be allowed to sit in on the backroom mechanics of the court system.
5. Announce yourself to the security officials at the entrance to the building. Tell them that you are a law student here to attend the court of judge X for educational purposes. Sometimes there are different security standards for officers of the court. You may be escorted or directed to the offices of the judge and court staff, which is optimal. Some courts, such as federal courts, do not allow cell phones and cameras.
6. Get to know the court staff. These people will be the ones that can make your experience great or terrible once you become an attorney. Introduce yourself to the bailiff, the court administrator, and the clerk for that particular jurisdiction. Learn their names and be friendly. Judges may come and go, and being friends with the court personnel can be a tremendous benefit to your career.
7. Show social deference to the judge. Most judges are attorneys, but they also deserve the respect of the positions in which they serve. Refer to the judge as “your honor.” If invited into chambers, remain standing until the judge offers for you to be seated. Treat the judge as a dignitary. You will see that the attorneys do the same. The judge will signal through conversations with others in chambers when it is proper to relax decorum.
8. If invited to chambers, accept. If invited to lunch by the judge, accept. Accept any offer from the judge. When you tell the judge that you are a law student, you will probably be invited to sit at the front of the court with the court officers. This is an honor, and it is wonderful training for your future career.
9. Take notes! You will be introduced to many attorneys, and it is great to start learning their names now. These will be your peers when you enter practice. Also record information about the proceedings so that you can formulate intelligent questions. After the court recesses for the day, many judges will ask law students if they have any questions. It is preferable that you do have a few. It shows that you are interested and learning.
10. Write a thank you letter to the judge. It is a great honor and wonderful learning experience to be invited into court. It is only proper to show your appreciation through a letter. Plus, this will reinforce your identity and character on the judge. You may soon be appearing before this judge on behalf of your client, and it will be a huge benefit to have already established a good relationship.
Check out this post for more law school student life advice: A Balancing Act: The Key to Law School Sanity