Taking my child to work always brings me a new perspective. On one of the rare days I have allowed my son to take a “break” from school and join me for a day, he made a keen observation: lawyers stand around a lot! His follow up question was “did you take a class in law school on how to wait?”
Lawyers do tend to stand around. Clients notice and kids notice. So why do we stand around and wait?
There are a few explanations all of which taken together create a congregation of lawyers. First of all, the dockets or court cases scheduled to be heard are jam-packed. Madison county has a high case load and not enough Judges to get everyone on their way quickly. Thankfully, Madison County will soon be adding another judge to the bench in 2010.
Second, many times it’s the only time lawyers can get together on cases. As a client, you probably have had to wait for appointment times, or returned phone calls. I can’t say all lawyers are busy, but most are. Court dates create a time where all parties and lawyers are present at the same time. This is the best time to try and hammer out a settlement. The lawyers use this time to negotiate and advocate for their client, whether it’s a civil case or criminal one. Getting lawyers and clients together is a lot like herding cats…it’s a difficult task but when it does happen, everyone should take advantage of it.
Third, sometimes cases on the top of the docket take longer than expected. Many times issues before the court when initially filed have changed – either for better or worse – and fleshing out the relevant and material evidence takes a long time. This is a good thing. Everyone deserves their day in court. Every problem a party has is important. In my opinion, a good judge allows time for everyone to be heard. However, being a good judge can cause a back up in the cases, but remember your case will be afforded the same courtesy.
Fourth, many times a lawyer gets caught in another courtroom where cases there ran long. That creates a standstill for the opposing lawyer. Lawyers do their best to notify everyone about a week before of any potential conflicts. We write a letter to the Court Administrator with copies to the Judges and all the lawyers who might be affected. The letter details our schedules for each day that we have court appearances which either overlap or could run late. Judges know where the lawyers are and when they are needed they don’t hesitate to track them down in other courtrooms by making a phone call from the bench. There is some hierarchy to cases. Circuit court trumps the lower District court, usually. If there are emergency issues in the District Court then of course the lawyer will stay and handle that matter first.
Lastly, lawyers like to talk. Many lawyers you see congregating are doing just that. They use the time in the courthouse to meet with other lawyers – either sharing ideas or simply catching up on personal and professional relationships. Many lawyers have more than one case between them. Sometimes they are between cases without time to run back to the office. Lawyers tend to be bad company for non-lawyers as we tend to discuss things that non-lawyers find boring; therefore, when we get an opportunity to talk to another lawyer about recent law changes, or court decisions we pounce – creating the gaggle of attorneys.
Most lawyers like to be in the courtroom practicing law, not waiting. There is host of other things we could be doing…like returning those phone calls as previously mentioned. For every judge there are hundreds of cases, for every case there are at least two lawyers, so after doing the math, the crowds swell. I can say as an experienced “wait-er”, it is difficult on the lawyer but I also know it’s difficult on the client. My advice is to be patient…your time will come, your case will be called and you will have your day in court, it just might not be at the time it was originally scheduled.