3 Tips for Making Your First Court Appearance With Confidence

By William Peacock, Esq. on January 08, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Matlock. That guy was a boss. He exuded confidence, and not just because he won every case. Then again, he was like 70. At that age, with that experience, you're either confident or ready for retirement.

Ditto for Denny Crain, though yelling your name probably won't win you many cases in real life.

How do you exude confidence, like those two legends, even with zero experience?

The Wardrobe

You'd think, that after three years in law school, and an internship or two, that attorneys would have some sense of appropriate attire.

They often don't. We've seen some strange stuff, from attorneys in Uggs to guy with a waxed hipster moustache. Even in California, with its lack of formal rules for court attire, dressing like a tween or a homeless man isn't advisable. Dress the part. Feel the part.

Bowties are optional.

The Ride-Along

They don't hand pistols to rookie cops and say, "Now, go out there and use some excessive force!"

Instead, the rookie is usually assigned to do ride-alongs or paired up with a more experienced partner. The experienced cop demonstrates abusive conduct first-hand, so that the rookie doesn't make mistakes (like getting caught). Kidding -- he or she shows them the ropes.

You need to do ride-alongs. If you are a fresh shingle-hanger, straight out of school, see if your local bar association has a mentorship program.

If not, and if you have no friends, at least go to the courtroom a day or two early and observe the regular procedures. Local rules are the worst part about learning to practice law. You don't want to botch those in front of a client, especially since the administrative crap has nothing to do with your ability to represent your client or manipulate the case facts in his favor.

The Case

You wouldn't bring a knife to a gun fight. As a lawyer, sometimes, you'll have to do exactly that (metaphorically speaking, of course). Some cases, especially very guilty criminal cases, are stinkers. You do the best you can.

But for your first appearance in court, do you really want to start with a losing case? Sure, there is very little pressure. But confidence is easier to fake with a strong case.

Have any tips to share? How about horror stories? Join the discussion on Facebook.

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