B. Introduction to the Courthouse

The following points are suggested to facilitate a discussion about the local courthouse(s) and court personnel.

  1. Discuss the local court rules or orders and how they impact your conduct. Discuss whether different judges have different views and interpretations of the local rules, and different courtroom practices. To the extent possible, share information in this regard about the preferences of the judges before whom the new lawyer is likely to appear.
  2. Go to the local courthouse(s), particularly those courts where the new lawyer will primarily be appearing, and, to the extent possible, introduce the new lawyer to members of the judiciary, court personnel, and clerks of the court.
  3. Show the new lawyer the location of the clerk’s office, explaining where to file pleadings, obtain certified copies of case documents, get journal entries, or search the docket. If the mentor has errands at court (which are non-privileged), invite the new lawyer to participate in those errands with the mentor. Ask the clerk to provide to the new lawyer his or her perspective on filing protocols such as cover sheets, number of copies, walking copies through to the judge, and the like.
  4. Ask the bailiff and/or court clerk to share with the new lawyer protocols such as whether lawyers are required to check in before a hearing, whether simple or uncontested matters are called ahead of the regular docket, how a lawyer should handle a situation where s/he is covering two cases scheduled at the same time, whether courtesy copies are expected and when, whether draft orders should be proposed with courtesy copies, and how far in advance of an appearance the judges receive the files.
  5. Introduce the new lawyer to the court’s reporters or the manager of the digital recording system and discuss the procedure for obtaining a transcript from them. If there are no reports provided by the court, discuss the necessity and procedure for privately obtaining a reporter.
  6. Ask the judges to whom you introduce the new lawyer to share any pointers they have for handling a case in front of them.
  7. Explain the roles of different court staff, including the clerks, the bailiffs, and the judge’s assistants. Discuss the appropriate demeanor with court personnel.
  8. Explain the protocol for meeting with a judge, such as how to get to a judge’s chambers, or who should be contacted to set up a meeting. Discuss examples of ex parte contact and how to avoid it.
  9. Discuss when it is appropriate to enter a courtroom that is in session.
  10. Discuss how a judge is customarily addressed in court, at formal functions and events, in social settings, or at the grocery store. Does this custom change depending upon how often you appear before the judge or the capacity in which you know the judge? For example, if you are a prosecutor and appear before the same judge/magistrate every day? Or if you don’t appear before the judge in court, but you are on a bar association taskforce with him or her resulting in frequent meetings together?
  11. Discuss the appropriate attire for lawyers in your local court(s). Discuss how you should advise your client to dress. Does your client’s dress depend upon the type of case being litigated? What if your client does not have the proper attire to appear in court?
  12. Discuss the importance of being on time for court and the expectations of individual judges in this regard.
  13. Discuss the appropriate demeanor with opposing counsel. How should you address opposing counsel? What if you know opposing counsel well because you often oppose each other in cases? Because you went to law school together? Because you are good friends? How should you react if opposing counsel has been underhanded or dishonest during your case? What types of recourse are there? Discuss tips that the mentor has for keeping calm during conversations with an opposing counsel who is conducting himself or herself unprofessionally, such as yelling at you, attacking you personally, or threatening you.
  14. Discuss courtroom technology that is available to trial lawyers such as overhead projectors, VCR/DVD players, microphones, computers, or internet. Provide contact information for or introduce the new lawyer to the court personnel who should be contacted when the new lawyer is interested in courtroom technology.
  15. Discuss protocols and advice for e-filing documents with Integrated Colorado Courts E-Filing System (ICCES) for most Colorado state courts and Electronic Case Filing (ECF) for Colorado federal courts.
  16. What is the appropriate demeanor with your clients both in and out of court? Discuss the importance of sensitivity towards your clients.
  17. Discuss the importance of associating with local counsel if you are handling a case outside your community. What are the advantages and disadvantages to doing so? How do you go about finding local counsel in another community with which to associate yourself?
  18. If you are acting as local counsel with an out-of-state/town lawyer, what is your relationship to each other and to the case? What do you do when the other counsel wants to completely control the litigation and your actions? What are the differences between federal and state courts?
  19. Discuss etiquette for speaking on and off the record.

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