What You Need to Know About Basic Courtroom Etiquette
Unless you work in the legal field, odds are that you don’t spend a lot of time in a courtroom. Being in a courtroom can be an intimidating experience, especially if you don’t know what to expect. In any case, having proper courtroom etiquette, in both behavior and attire, is essential. Here are a few things you need to know about basic courtroom etiquette:
Perhaps the most basic rule, and maybe the most obvious, is to be on time for court. Make sure you know the time of your hearing and arrive with time to spare in order to get through security. If you’re traveling during rush hour, or you are unsure of the parking situation, allow yourself even more time. Being late for court definitely leaves a bad impression, so when in doubt, arrive early.
Another obvious but easily forgettable rule is to turn off your cell phone. There is nothing more embarrassing than having your ringtone blaring loudly during court. In some courts, if your cell phone is an interruption, it will be confiscated until court has ended. To be safe, just turn it off completely.
While in court, be sure to stand at the appropriate times. Always stand when the judge enters the courtroom, when you are addressing the judge and court, or when the judge is speaking to you. Attorneys are also expected to stand when addressing the judge.
Most importantly, be respectful. Be sure to be polite and address everyone you encounter with respect despite their job title. Silence is golden when it comes to the courtroom. Keep conversations to a minimum, don’t interrupt, and only speak when you’re addressed or if it is absolutely necessary. Be mindful of your tone and even your body language. Avoid eye-rolls, harsh facial expressions, or dramatic gestures during court.
Your clothing could leave just as much of an impression as your behavior, so make sure you dress to impress. Professional and appropriate clothing is essential when entering a courtroom, and it is seen as a sign of respect to the judge.
For women, proper courtroom attire includes a conservative dress with sleeves that isn’t much higher than your knees, a chic business suit, or dress pants and a dress shirt. When it comes to jewelry, try to be as minimal as possible. Of course, wedding rings and watches are acceptable, but try to avoid bulky necklaces, bracelets, or earrings.
Men typically wear a suit, or dress slacks and a dress shirt when they are appearing in court. Obviously, avoid t-shirts or any clothing item with text or images on it. Keep it simple. When it comes to shoes, choose a dress shoe that covers the toes. Please, even if it’s 100 degrees outside, don’t wear flip flops to court.
No matter how many episodes of “Law and Order” you’ve seen, courtrooms can be a bit intimidating, but if you follow the rules and remember to be respectful above all else, you’ll make a good impression.