No one wants to find themselves in court. Unfortunately, it’s more common than you think. Whether you’ve been charged with a crime, you’re suing another person, or you’re dealing with a messy divorce, you could very easily find yourself in front of a judge.
Part of what makes going to court so scary is that it can seem like such a foreign environment. What are you supposed to know, do, or say?
Getting what you want out of your particular court proceeding does require a little know-how, and these tips will help you get started.
Understand the Details of Your Particular Case
Before you do anything else, you will want to understand the details of your particular case. That includes making sure you understand what is involved in a lawsuit, if that’s what you’re dealing with, as well as the differences between state and federal court. If you’re dealing with a custody dispute, getting your ducks in a row is extremely important, as is uncovering and understanding the facts in your case if you’re being charged with a crime.
Not only will understanding the details of your particular case help prepare you for the courtroom, it can provide you with greater confidence and peace of mind as your court date approaches.
Have a Basic Understanding of the Court System
The courtroom can be very intimidating because it really is like its own little world. It can be very helpful to dive into this world and do some research to understand how it works.
How long does the average court proceeding last in your area? Who are you likely to see in the courtroom? How often will you be expected to attend court dates? These are all questions you will want to try and answer.
If you’ve never been to the courthouse before, you may want to consider going before your court date. You can get familiar with the building, which can make you feel a little less nervous when you show up to meet with the judge.
Hire the Right Attorney
You can represent yourself in court, and you can do a lot of research on your own about how the court system works, but you’re likely to be left with a lot of questions. Not to mention, the more complicated your case, the harder it will be to represent yourself with confidence while optimizing your chances of experiencing a positive outcome in your case. That’s why hiring a lawyer is always a good idea.
There are many things you need to think about when hiring an attorney. Things you’ll want to consider include:
- Relevant experience
- Fees and costs
- Payment arrangements
It’s also important to consider whether or not you’re comfortable speaking with your attorney, regardless of their pricing structure or experience. If you don’t trust your attorney or feel uncomfortable with them for any reason, don’t be afraid to hire someone different.
Learn a Little About the Judge
The judge holds your fate in their hands. That’s scary to say about anyone, let alone someone you’ve never met before.
There are many different types of courts and different judges that serve on a variety of cases within each one. It can be very helpful to learn a little bit about the type of court you’re dealing with and the judge you will be seeing before your court date.
Ask your attorney if they can tell you a little bit about the judge you will be seeing, and see if you can find any information about them online. Even seeing a picture can be helpful. That way, your judge doesn’t seem like a stranger when you walk into the room.
Dress the Part
It shouldn’t matter what you wear to court—you should always be treated with fairness and respect. However, it’s human nature to judge people based on how they look. That’s why it’s so important to dress appropriately when you go to court.
Fortunately, figuring out what to wear isn’t complicated. In general, you want to strive for conservative styles. Choose neutral colors, avoid bold patterns, and leave statement jewelry at home.
Dress as if you were preparing for a big job interview. You would want a potential employer to think you’re knowledgeable, trustworthy, and honest, which is exactly what you want the judge to think.
Practice What to Say and How to Speak
It’s easy to be intimidated by the judge, other attorneys, a jury, and the pomp and circumstance of the courtroom itself. It helps to practice what you’re going to say and how you’re going to speak ahead of time so you can reduce the chances of making a mistake when you’re in the courtroom.
Speak slowly and be assertive when you need to be. It’s good to be polite, yet firm, and speak only when you have permission.
You should also research things you shouldn’t say to a judge. Knowing what not to say can make it easier to know what kinds of things are acceptable and respectful.
Follow the Rules of the Courtroom
Part of knowing how to behave in the courtroom is knowing the rules you have to follow.
That includes general rules, like arriving early for your hearing and treating everyone with respect, but it also means knowing important protocols.
For example, you should never speak unless directly asked to do so. Know when to stand up and sit down, how to address the judge, and follow the bailiff’s and your attorney’s instructions.
It’s also important to write down any questions you might have about proceedings in the courtroom so you can ask your attorney. You should also ask your attorney to tell you if there’s anyone else at the courthouse who can answer your questions, should you have them.
The outcome of your case is important, which means every court appearance counts. With these tips, you can increase your confidence, give yourself peace of mind, and increase your chances of receiving a favorable ruling.