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Solo In Chicago

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Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Don't Send Your Secretary or Paralegal To Court

I was sitting in court at Daley yesterday waiting for my case to be called and I observed a young woman step up on a case who was not a lawyer which she readily admitted. After some questioning the judge angrily demanded that her firm get a lawyer over here immediately. The young woman made the call outside the courtroom and then returned saying that no one could come over and that the attorney had a broken leg and wouldn't be available for 4 weeks (ever heard of crutches). The judge then asked whether or not there were children involved in the case (domestic relations matter) so the young woman went outside to make another phone call. After which she returned and said there are no kids involved and the judge finally granted her a 5 week status date.

Sending a non-lawyer from your office to court is stupid at so many levels. By far the biggest reason being the behavior that you're subjecting your staff too. I've seen the above happen more than once. Granted it's not the non-lawyers fault but it's akin to someone yelling at the ticket agent at the airport...it's not her/his fault the flight's 2 hours late but he/she is on the front line and will take the brunt of the criticism. Beyond that I think you're probably opening yourself up to being accused of unauthorized practice of law and you're certainly not helping your relationships with opposing counsel or the court.


At 4:20 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

I had this happen in a case in which I was involved years ago in bankruptcy. The attorney, a solo, sent his wife to appear. The judge found out she was not a lawyer and blew his stack. He told her that "wives cannot appear in court for their husbands". Then he got embarrassed and had to explain on the record that was not true for my wife because she is a lawyer that regularly practices in the Court. Then the Judge was concerned that what he said my be taken as sexist. So, he was made and trying to explain things in ways that was at one hand kind of funny and on the other hand confusing. I remember later feeling bad about it because I found out the attorney had in fact had a small heart attack. She never said anything of this in front of the Judge, and if she had called me or told me, I would have informed the Court of the situation and asked for the continuance myself. She was just trying to make sure there was not a non-appearance, I guess, and then got so flustered when the judge went off that she did not defend the her appearance any further. Maybe it is the same situation in the case you witnessed with the broken leg.

At 8:37 PM, Blogger Passion&Happiness said...

This is ridiculous. The lawyer should have come in with a wheelchair or crutches. Why would he send his secretary? Was anybody paying him? Does he not have friends that are lawyers?
Regardless this is unacceptable: The secretary will not be able to deal and she will not know how to approach the court. Nor will your wife, unless she is a lawyer too.
Wonderful post. Looks like more people need to learn this.
I, however, do not see how it is not obvious.


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