March 01, 2016

Opening Statement: Seven Tips on How to Behave in Court

Steven Weiss

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Most of us remember something that happened the first (or maybe second or third) time we appeared in court that would not have happened had we been a little more experienced. For some, it is something significant like making an admission. For others, it is something small that may not have any real impact on the case but that signaled to the judge and opposing counsel that you were a rookie. For me, it was winning a routine motion in Illinois state court and starting to leave the courtroom after the judge ruled in my favor. The bailiff came running after me and told me that I had to draft an order for the judge to sign. I went back into the courtroom, approached the judge’s clerk, and threw myself on her mercy. Luckily, the clerk was kind and showed me a sample order that I was able to copy and submit to the judge. (This story may seem alien to the vast majority of you who practice in states where the court writes the order or the parties submit a joint draft.)

Here are a few tips that I hope will prevent you from being embarrassed in court. They are directed primarily toward non-trial court appearances—presentation of motions, status hearings, and the like.

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