Preparing for Trial: Your Day in Court Shouldn’t Be Your First

It’s here.  Your case is going to trial.  What should you do?

On that first day of trial, you will likely be anxious and nervous, but your lawyer needs you to be calm and collected.  Visiting a courthouse to watch a trial a week or so before yours begins is a simple way to lower your anxiety and increase your understanding of what a trial looks like in “real life”.

Unfamiliarity increases anxiety.  You need to familiarize yourself with not only the process but the physical surroundings.

Ideally, this should begin with a visit to the courthouse where your trial will take place. Start with your route to the courthouse.  Know how to get there and how long it will take.  Know what the traffic will be like at the times you will be traveling.  Know where to park and how to pay.  Allow yourself plenty of time, and then allow for some more.  It is guaranteed that your anxiety level will go through the roof if you arrive to find the parking lot full and you have no change to plug the ½ hour meter blocks away from the courthouse.

Familiarize yourself with the layout of the courthouse.  At every courthouse, a trial list is posted every day that lists the trials being heard that day.  The trial lists include the names of the cases, their court rooms, and often the judges hearing them.  The trial list also tells you whether a matter is a criminal matter or a civil one.  Criminal cases are usually described as “R v. ____”.  You should try to watch a civil matter, and preferably one which is similar to your own.  So if you’ve been in a car crash, go watch a car crash case.

Anyone can go observe court as long as they show the proper respect and consideration. Entering and exiting the court room should be done in a quiet manner.  Turn off your cell phone.  The court room is not a lunch room, so do not chew gum, drink beverages or eat a snack.  If you attend with a friend, do not chat during the proceedings.  If you are not sure what to wear to court, check with your lawyer.  Typically, jeans and a t-shirt are to be avoided.  You do not want your behavior to draw the attention of the judge, because who knows, the judge you anger may be the one who hears your case.

Familiarize yourself with the court room set up and with who sits where including the judge, the jury, the court reporter, the lawyers and the witnesses.  You will notice that the lawyers will usually sit closer to the judge and in an area which is partitioned from the general seating.  The public is invited to sit in the area behind the partition or “bar” only.

You may also notice that the lawyers will bow when entering and leaving the court room.  You are not required to do so, however it is a sign of respect and if you feel so inclined, you may.

When observing a trial, pay attention to how people are addressed, and who people address their comments to.  Your lawyer will tell you that it is proper for the witness to answer to the judge or jury, even though a lawyer asks the question.

Familiarize yourself with the timing of a court day.  Matters often begin at 10:00 am and usually break in the morning, at lunch, and in the afternoon.  You may be surprised at what seems how little time is used for the giving of evidence by witnesses.  You will be surprised when your turn comes how long it may feel and how tiring it can be.

After a day at the courthouse, you will have a better understanding of what a day at court involves and you should feel more prepared for when you give evidence at your own trial.

Trials and hearings are typically heard between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., Monday – Friday.  The court house locations in the Fraser Valley include:

Chilliwack: 46085 Yale Road

Abbotsford: 32203 South Fraser Way

Surrey: 14340 – 57 Avenue

New Westminster: 629 Agnes Street

This blog is produced by Waterstone Law Group LLP. This blog is intended for information purposes only and is not offered as legal advice for a specific claim. Subscription to or use of this site does not establish a solicitor – client relationship between the user and Waterstone Law Group LLP or any of the individual contributors. For advice relating to your personal injury claim, please contact us to arrange for a free consultation.

One Response to “Preparing for Trial: Your Day in Court Shouldn’t Be Your First”