The saying goes that “there is a first time for everything” and that applies to every lawyer’s first court appearance. Depending on your level of preparation it could either turn out to be a truly memorable experience or one you wish you could forget (because of your courtroom blunders). The majority of courtroom gaffes are often made by “new wigs” (lawyers who have been recently called to bar) on account of their unfamiliarity with the etiquette of a typical court setting (One lawyer was said to have addressed a judge by “sir” and got a reprimand). This could often be avoided if lawyers newly called to bar would take the time to be fully acquainted with proper courtroom etiquette before they make their first ever court appearance. So here are 10 proper courtroom etiquette every lawyer should know.
(1) Never raise your voice in front a of judge
And here goes all of your law series courtroom fantasies. We know opposing counsel will sometimes get on your nerves and try to disrupt the rhythm of your argument with his ceaseless unreasonable objections. Still don’t bullshit him before the judge. Counsel is at all times a beloved gentleman of the bar. Instead you’ll be looked upon as the real sucker for raising your voice. Keep your temper always in check.
(2) Don’t point your fingers at a judge or opposing counsel.
However if this happens and you are corrected by the Bench, respond with a simple apology and a promise to keep their admonition in mind.
(3) Counsel must refer to an opposing counsel as my “learned/worthy friend” or simply “my friend”.
Do not refer to opposing counsel as “the opposition” or worst by their name.
(4) Use proper titles in addressing the judge.
Never call a judge “sir” or “judge”. The judge if a male must be addressed as “My Lord/Your Honour or Your Lordship. If a lady address her as “Your Ladyship” but if you want to be politically correct you can address her as “Your Excellency”. It’s a gender neutral term. But if it’s in Nigeria, you must address the judge whether a male or female as “My Lord”.
(5) Rise when the Judge and Jury enter and leave the courtroom
In Nigeria, there are no jury trials, only judges determine questions of facts and law. This would apply only where the judge enters or leaves the room.
(6) Never interrupt others when they are talking
(7) Stand when speaking to the judge, meeting or raising an objection or questioning a witness
(8) Always request to approach (does not apply to Nigeria)
You will come across to the bench as well polished if you politely ask the judge to approach the bench when there’s an important thing you want to say in open court.
(9) Put your mobile technology on airplane mode when in court.
(10) Dress appropriately, in a manner that shows respect for the court.
Patrick Herbert is the Editor-in-Chief and founder of Law Student Hub. He is an LL.B. Law graduate from the University of Benin, Nigeria. He’s a life enthusiast, a budding writer and internet entrepreneur. Patrick is deeply passionate about law and research and has inspired many with his thought-provoking articles. To get in touch, follow him on social media.