How to better prepare for court
Going to court can be stressful and intimidating, even for those who do it regularly. It can be even more so for those who are attending for the first time with very little idea of what to expect. Not knowing where to go or how to act can only add to the stress of having to appear in front of a judge.
It can be difficult to know how to behave and act to reduce the stress of attending court and presenting yourself in the best possible way in front of the judge. This article will discuss some of the more practical tips for presenting yourself well in court.
First, go to Court before your hearing date. The Court is a public building and there is no reason why you should not visit it before the Hearing so that you can learn about the design and how the building works. You may also attend another hearing if a suitable one is available. Talk to the court ushers (court staff) and ask if they can attend a hearing. If you explain why you want to do it, they may be able to advise you on what is available. This will give you the opportunity to become familiar with what an audience really is.
Second, arrive early on the day of your hearing. Don’t try to arrive in time for your target audience to be early. This will give you time to find the room in which your hearing is taking place. You should also give yourself plenty of time, as the Defendant may want to talk to you about the settlement before going in. It is not uncommon for cases to be resolved before going to a hearing. However, if the Defendant tries to settle your claim, you should be aware that they will expect you to feel stressed and nervous and some may try to use that to force you to accept a lower offer. Stay calm and don’t settle for less than your claim is worth just because you are nervous about the Hearing.
Third, dress appropriately. You should always dress elegantly, as you would for a job interview. Remember that appearances count for a lot, and while in a perfect world you would be judged on your case alone, in reality how you present yourself and your attitude in court will have an impact on your case. Dressing smartly shows respect for the Court and the process in which you are involved. You show the judge that you are taking this matter seriously and that it deserves their time and attention. Dressing smart can mean different things to different people, so for the avoidance of doubt, don’t go to court in jeans, leggings, T-shirts, or blouses. Wear a suit if you can, or if you don’t have one and have no way of obtaining / borrowing one, you must wear a suit jacket at a minimum.
Fourth, address the judge accordingly. If you are before a district judge, you should address them as “Sir” or “Madam,” as the case may be. If you are before a registrar or circuit judge, you should address them as “Your Honor.” In the unlikely event that you find yourself before a Superior Court judge, you should address them as “My Lord” or “My Lady,” as the case may be. However, with that said, don’t panic if you forget the correct way to address a judge, as long as you are courteous and respectful, the judge will not be offended.
Fifth, speak appropriately. As stated above, it is important to be courteous during the process of speaking to the judge and your opponent. This will be a very emotional experience, but you should try to stay calm. Try not to lose your temper or get overly emotional, take a moment to breathe if you need to, the judge will understand that this is not an easy test. There will be water available, if you need to take a moment have a drink and try to relax as much as possible. During the Hearing, only one person should speak at a time. If you interrupt the Defendant or the Defendant interrupts you, the Judge will act to maintain order. You should not interrupt the judge if you need to report something to him while you are speaking and then wait for him to finish before speaking.
Lastly, be honest, if you can’t answer a question from the judge or the defendant, you should say so. If possible, make an effort to find the answer during a break in the hearing. However, it is unlikely that the answer to a question is not known, this is your statement and no one should know better than you. The questions that are asked will be important and affect the judge’s decision, so answer them with as much information as you can.
In conclusion, you now need to understand some of the steps you can take to better present yourself in Court and reduce the stress you may be in by attending Court.