As the age-old saying goes, “First impressions are everything.” The same is especially true in a courtroom setting. Regardless of which side of the aisle you’re sitting on in the courtroom, etiquette is everything, but oftentimes, that first time in court can be nerve-wracking. How do I sit? When do I stand? How do I address the judge? Don’t fret—we’ve got you covered. Here are the top do’s and don’ts you should keep in mind when attending court to avoid any unnecessary faux pas.


Arrive on Time

This is arguably the most important factor on the list. Be on time, no ifs, ands, or buts. Court hearings aren’t always the most expedient of processes, but that doesn’t mean that it’s okay to show up late. Make sure that when you have a court hearing scheduled, you plan to show up at least half an hour to an hour early. Whether it’s traffic or some other unforeseen delay, the court won’t see it as an excuse.

Know Whom You Should Respect

The heading above has an easy answer: respect everyone. If they’re in the courtroom, they deserve the utmost respect and professional candor when addressed. Among those in the courtroom, however, the judge is especially important. As one university-level law etiquette guide emphasizes, an easy tip to remember is that if the judge is standing, you should be standing as well. The same goes for when the judge is seated. The court itself should always be referred to as “the court,” and direct answers should be followed with “sir” or “ma’am.” It’s also a good idea to keep all electronic devices on your person shut off or silent. Some judges have specific rules on what is and isn’t allowed in their courtroom.

Dress For Success

A big part of being the part is looking the part. It’s hard to come across as professional, credible, and likeable if you show a basic lack of respect for the standard dress code in the courtroom. While some courts are more formal than others, it’s always a good idea to dress business casual. When in doubt, it never hurts to be overdressed—especially in the courtroom.


Show Up Unprepared

Once you’re in the courtroom, be prepared for the long haul. Hearings are often arduous and time-consuming, and as such, require a lot of concentration and attention to detail. While your counsel will obviously be handling most of the speaking and court-specific responsibilities, at the end of the day, ensuring you have at least a cursory knowledge of your case as well as etiquette will go a long way in making a good impression.

Make It Harder For Your Counsel

If you already have solid legal counsel by your side, there’s no need to make things harder by being late or showing blatant disrespect for others in the courtroom. When you fail to do the little things right, you’re just making it harder on your counsel. Regardless of how much of a slam dunk a case might seem to be, you always want to make things easy on your representation.

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