Why Do You Bring Your Client to Every Hearing?
Published to: 000111, 000112, 000113, 000116, 000117, A Small Town Lawyer's Perspective, Perspectives of a Small Town Lawyer, West Virginia Lawyer - Tips and Techniques
on February 4, 2013 9:58 pm
I believe, whenever possible, my client should accompany me to court, even when we are meeting the court in chambers for a “scheduling conference”, or a “status conference” or a “pretrial hearing”.
Other lawyers reply, “That makes no sense.” And even a judge recently said, I am not going to make any rulings today, why waste your clients’ time?
Here is my answer:
1. When I arrived in Buckhannon from the USAF JAG Corps., Circuit Court Judges still heard divorces. One judge in particular brought us into his office “just to find out the issues”. He had an infuriating habit of sizing things up after just a few words from the lawyers, with the clients sitting outside.
2. I practiced summarizing my case into one or two sentences. That helped a bit. But it still felt like Russian Roulette. And I always hated to bring the client bad news and feel the client thought I had sold him out.
3. Once he told my opponent to go tell his clients they had lost. I thought the lawyer would blow the top of his head sky high as he explained to the judge through clenched teeth that they had flown in from Ca. for the hearing the judge was trying to deny to them.
4. For nearly 40 years, I have been bringing my clients to each hearing unless there are exigent circumstances. I show them the courtroom, the witness chair, where the court reporter sits, the jury box, and any else I can think of. I have heard excellent trial lawyer speakers at continuing legal education suggest this very thing. Usually I learn something I would not have learned or answer questions that need answering.
5. I figure the case was important enough for the client to hire me, so his missing work is justified. I trust he will tell me if it is serious problem.
6. During a surprising percentages of cases, something important happens at that hearing. Perhaps the other lawyers didn’t bother to have his lawyer there. Maybe the Court wants to schedule something for the week of my client’s vacation. Maybe the Court has a question that only my client can answer. I have seen it all.
7. Today, my client had some important evidence to share with me, and I was able to tell him his case had been continued and mediation ordered. These were both good things, BUT what about the time when something BAD happens and the client is not there? This is why I believe it is unconstitutional for a judge to bar a litigant from sitting next to his lawyer at any hearing and why the recorder should be on for every hearing or conference.
8. Just think of the lawyer who had to tell his Ca. clients they had lost. That was 40 years ago, but I still remember his anger and embarrassment.
So, if your lawyer does not stay in regular contact, copy you in e-mail and other correspondence, and have you physically present at every hearing, I suggest you consider whether you have the best attorney for that particular job.
This post was written by Burton Hunter