The April 7, 2015, event at the Chicago Bar Association provided an insightful experience for attending attorneys, as judges opened up about what really frustrates them on the bench. Partner Ken Levinson, who moderated the round-table discussion, was impressed with the judges’ candor in their comments about the attorneys appearing before them.
“The judges’ perspectives are valuable in making sure that we do all we can to help our clients. When we are in court, the ability to recognize and appreciate a judge’s preferences is more than useful.”
The panel consisted of Circuit Court of Cook County Judges Michael R. Panter, William E. Gomolinksi, and James N. O’Hara. The stories shared by three judges were both serious and humorous, and certainly helped attorneys in attendance to better understand how judges are thinking about and analyzing the cases before them.
The oft-repeated adage “know your judge” rings as true as ever, and here are some of the most valuable tips we were fortunate enough to receive from the judges at the event:
No eye-rolling, groaning, or inappropriate gestures
Judges do not always rule in ways we like. But rather than reacting too quickly and letting our frustrations show through, think about the next time you will be before that particular judge. Chances are, he or she will remember you. In the legal field, reputation is everything. In case you thought this was so obvious that it need not even be stated to a group of lawyers at a bar association event, Judge Gomolinski related a story from the morning’s court call detailing the ridiculous antics of an attorney.
Don’t talk to the other attorney when you should be talking to the judge
If you’re appearing in front of the judge on a case status hearing or motion, it is the judge’s time to discuss the case with you and the other attorneys. Going back and forth about housekeeping matters between attorneys should be done before the scheduled court time. Judge O’Hara even advised lawyers to take care of these conferences weeks before the court date, not leaving them until the morning of.
Don’t show up to court without knowing the details of your case
Judges don’t want to hear the lawyer appearing before them say that they don’t know the information necessary to moving the case forward. Even if you’re covering for another attorney, judges expect that basic information about the case is available; for example, how many more depositions are you expecting to take? And, how long do you need to take them?
Don’t be rude to courtroom staff
Judges can see and hear how you treat the clerks and deputies. Judges work with the court staff every day, and view their staff as an extension of the bench. You should treat the court clerk and all of the judge’s staff with the same respect you show the judge.
Don’t say “with all due respect, Judge”
Bonus Tip: Judges are people, too
Even the strictest of judges knows emergencies happen. Judges, like attorneys, have lives outside of work, and they remind lawyers to be candid and honest when those things beyond our control occur. Your dog can only eat your homework so many times, and yes, judges do remember those attorneys who have a habit of making “excuses.”
Do you have any tried and true tips to building good relationships with judges? Or any other no-no’s that should be on our list? Let us know in the comments or on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+!