Common Mistakes by Lawyers

toates Published

by Thomas Oates, Director, Broward County Bar Association
Published in the Barrister, August 2010 Edition, Broward County Bar Association

August 19, 2010, the Young Lawyers Section of the Broward County Bar hosted their Judicial Panel Luncheon with Judges Imperato, Luzzo, Lynch and Rothschild. The four judge panel each spoke on the topic, “Common Mistakes by Lawyers.” The well attended event took place at the Tower Club in downtown Fort Lauderdale. Attendees included members of the Bar and the judiciary. The Young Lawyers Section should be congratulated for hosting another successful event.

In their remarks, the four judge panel shared some simple rules to help young and experienced attorneys alike from making common mistakes. Summary of remarks:

Judge Rothschild
1. Family comes first. Your son or daughter has their little league championship once. Don’t work so hard that your practice’s success becomes your family’s loss.
2. Talk to other attorneys. Value the friendships and camaraderie within your profession. Not only will it make the practice of law more enjoyable, but you are a more effective advocate for your client when you work well with opposing counsel.
3. Make your case timely. Taylor your argument to fit the time you have requested. In other words, if you schedule a ten minute hearing, limit your argument to five minutes.
4. You need to know your judge. Get to know the Judge’s procedural rules and in talking to your fellow attorneys (see #2) share what the Judge’s common practices are.
Judge Luzzo
1. Always introduce yourself to the Court. This is not only for the judge’s benefit, but for the other courtroom personnel as well.
2. Be nice to the Judicial Assistant. They are an extension of the Court.
3. Be nice to your fellow attorney. Professionalism and Civility, nothing less will be tolerated.
4. Send a cover letter. Explain what it is you want the Court to do.
5. Send copies of all correspondence and pleadings to your client. The number one bar complaint is lack of communication. Make a policy of copying your client to easily avoid this common complaint.
6. Pretend your trial is like a play. Whether you are performing for the judge or the jury, make sure you are not presenting your audience with issues that are not their concern. Rambo tactics are not looked upon favorably.
7. As a general rule, he or she who stays the calmest longest, wins.
8. Don’t continue to argue after the judge has ruled. Especially if the ruling was in your favor.
9. Follow the golden rule. Treat others with the same respect you’d want others to show you.
Judge Imperato
1. Reputation is key. It only takes one bad experience to ruin a reputation.
2. Don’t be late. Punctuality is key. Call the judicial assistant if you have a valid reason for being late.
3. Misleading the Court on the law is not easily forgotten.
4. Don’t try to throw the judicial assistant under the bus.
Judge Lynch
1. Don’t demand a jury trial before an answer has been filed.
2. Timely file a motion for attorney’s fees.
3. In non-binding arbitration, make your request for a trial denovo timely.
4. Use your fellow colleagues’ knowledge about a judge’s procedural rules concerning envelopes, copies, blank orders and cell phone etiquette.