Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Ups of the Pre-Coffee Court Calls

Court before I have my coffee is usually nothing I look forward to. I like walking into the Starbucks, getting my latte, stumbling to my office and slowly beginning the workday. I don’t need to be sharp to write lawyerishingly. Or answer the phone lawyerishingly. My habit is to refrain from getting coffee before a court call starting at anytime before 10. I don’t want to rush the sacred imbibement of caffeine. Because I tend to spill.

With coffee, I can be Clarence Darrow in the Courtroom, without coffee, I am Clarence Thomas in the Courtroom.

But the pre-coffee court call is not always bad. Sometimes, yes, you will get the judge from hell or the opposing counsel from hell yet other times you will emerge from courtroom more awake, smiling and with a spring in your step. These are a few of the things that brighten my early court calls:

1. The Self-Deprecating Jurist. This judge will start the morning making fun of himself, “Before they let me become a judge, I had to take a class in pronouncing names…but I flunked.” I feel a lot more confident about whatever is about to happen in my case when the judge is cracking wise about this that or the other thing. “Counsel, I recognize that you practice in Chicago, but out here, the Court actually reads everything you send our way…I understand that may come as a shock to you.”

2. The Cage Match. This is a contentious multi-party action where they are years behind in discovery and as soon as two of the seven (or so attorneys) show up in the courtroom, they begin their attempts to secure the dominant role: “She cancelled the deposition last time for no reason, Steve’s office cancelled it the time before that and now we cannot reach a freaking agreement!” The response comes swift: “Lisa went into labor, Steve died, you cancelled it the time before because you were in Tahiti!” The rest of the Courtroom is listening to this pissing match and thanking God that they are not involved in a case like this all the while laughing quietly at the various attorneys involved. It’s even more entertaining when they begin to bicker and moan while the entire lot of them is standing uncomfortably before the judge…

3. The Inappropriately Dressed Lawyer. Also known as the second string offensive tackle, dressed in a mini-skirt, hooker-boots, and a dress jacket that has buttons on the verge of becoming dangerous projectiles. It’s like watching a train wreck from the moment she pops up from her seat and makes her way to the bench. “I am a professional lawyer by day and in the oldest profession by night…”

4. Leeway. The biggest thing I hate about early calls is that more often then not, I am presenting a case where we are no longer on schedule. Meaning the judge will be less than happy. Nothing will get me energized early in the morning when the judge shrugs off my lackadaisical approach to the case and gives me more time to get stuff done.

Now that I’ve waxed whimsical about the rare joys of an early court call, I’ve just sentenced myself to horrid morning court appearances…