Tips from the New Attorney Welcome Breakfast

Published July/August 2012
by Amy Borman, co-chair, Professionalism Committee

On May 17, 2012, the PBCBA’s Professionalism Committee, in conjunction with the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit, hosted its first annual “New Attorney Welcome Breakfast”.  The goal of the breakfast was to introduce new Palm Beach County Attorneys to the local practice and customs and to orient them to the level of professionalism expected by our judges.  The number of judges in attendance emphasized the importance of the morning’s theme “Reputation, reputation, reputation!”

While we all understand the importance of developing and maintaining a good reputation, we sometimes forget the types of behavior that separates the professional from the unprofessional.  When we hear the egregious story we laugh (or shudder) and think “not me”; but is there other behavior in which you engage which nonetheless is still unprofessional?

Below are some pieces of advice the judges gave to the new attorneys, and which serve as welcome reminders to us all:

1. Know the local rules and administrative orders (located at www.15thcircuit.com/adminorders).

2. Be prepared.  Provide case law to opposing counsel in advance of the hearing.  Acknowledge the caselaw that is adverse to your position.

3. Answer questions asked by the court truthfully.  You will gain more credibility with the judge if you admit you do not know the answer.

4. Don’t interrupt or talk over the judge or opposing counsel, and don’t roll your eyes while your opposing counsel is making an argument.

5. Talk to opposing counsel BEFORE you arrive at the hearing.  If opposing counsel is requesting an extension of time, try and agree to it since one day you may need that same courtesy.

6. Resolve your issues early rather than the night before the hearing.  Cancelling a special set hearing (that was scheduled four months earlier) may end up saving you a trip to the courthouse but it prevents others from utilizing that sought after court time.

7. Be respectful to court staff and judicial assistants.

8. Emergency Motions are for true emergencies.  Know the true definition of an emergency.  Once filed, an emergency motion is immediately brought up from the clerk’s office to the judge’s chambers for review.  If the judge believes an emergency exists, a hearing will be set immediately so be prepared to be at the courthouse at the time the judge is available.  If you find that it can wait another day or another week – then it is not a true emergency.

9.  Act professionally.  A dispute between the plaintiff and defendant does not equate to a dispute between the parties’ counsel.  You can advocate zealously for your client while retaining a professional and cordial relationship with your opposing counsel.

10. Get involved with the local bar associations.  Seek out a mentor and welcome the help that others are willing to provide.