Introduction to the Courthouse

This resource is intended to facilitate a discussion between the Mentor and New Lawyer about the local courthouse and court personnel. 

NOTE:  Many of these tips provide basic information on courtroom protocol and procedures.  Mentors should remember that most new lawyers are unfamiliar with such protocol and procedures.


Optional Section 1(e): Escort the new lawyer on a tour of the local courthouse(s) and, to the extent practicable, introduce him or her to members of the judiciary, court personnel and clerks of the court.

General Mentoring Tips

Prior to touring the courthouse, the following materials are excellent resources for the mentor to review with the new lawyer:

1. Explain the role of different court staff, including the clerks, the bailiffs, and the judge’s assistants.  Discuss the appropriate demeanor with court personnel.

2. Go to the local courthouse(s), particularly those courts where the new lawyer will primarily be appearing. To the extent possible, introduce the new lawyer to members of the judiciary, court personnel, and clerks of the court.

3. Show the new lawyer where the clerk’s office is and explain where to go to file pleadings, obtain certified copies of case documents, etc.  If the mentor has errands at court (which are non-privileged), invite the new lawyer to participate in those errands with the mentor.

4.Ask an appropriate court official (administrator, clerk, bailiff, or other) to provide the new lawyer his or her perspective on filing protocols such as cover sheets, courtesy copies, number of copies, etc.

5. Ask the bailiff and/or court clerk to answer the following questions related to courtroom protocols:

– Are lawyers required to check in before a hearing?

-Are simple or uncontested matters called ahead of the regular docket?

-How should a lawyer handle a situation where s/he is covering two cases scheduled at the same time?

-Are courtesy copies expected?  When?

-Should draft orders be proposed with courtesy copies?

-How far in advance to an appearance do judges receive the files?


6. Introduce the new lawyer to judicial bench books.  The bench books are available online at the following address:

7. Ask judges to share any pointers they have for handling a case in front of them.

8. Explain the protocol for meeting with a judge, such as the location of judicial chambers or requesting a meeting with chambers (i.e. who should be contacted); and discuss examples of impermissible ex parte communications and how to avoid them.

9. Discuss when it is appropriate to enter a courtroom that is in session.

10. Discuss how a judge is customarily addressed in the following situations:  courtroom; formal functions and events; social settings; or grocery store.  Does this custom change depending upon how often you appear before the judge or the capacity in which you know the judge?

11. Discuss the appropriate attire for lawyers in your local court(s).  Discuss how you should advise your client to dress.

12. Discuss the local court rules and how they impact your conduct.  Discuss how different judges have different views and interpretations of the local rules, as well as different courtroom practices.  To the extent possible, share information in this regard about the preferences of the judges before whom the new lawyer is likely to appear.

13. Discuss the importance of punctuality and the expectations of individual judges in this regard.

14. Discuss courtroom technology available to litigators, such as overhead projectors, VCR/DVD players, microphones, etc.  Provide contact information for or introduce the new lawyer to court personnel who should be contacted when the new lawyer is interested in using technology in a proceeding.

15. Discuss the method of establishing a court record in light of the fact that court reporters are no longer utilized in most courtrooms.  Discuss the method of obtaining the court record and transcribing the record.  Who is responsible for furnishing the record?  Who pays for transcribing the record?

16. Discuss court procedure for handling exhibits, examining witnesses, and using the podium in the courts before which the new lawyer is likely to appear.