LAWYERS SHOULD NOT BE RUDE TO COURT STAFF (INDEED, NOT RUDE TO ANYONE): A WORRYING REPORT

The Oxford Mail carries a story on the 4th November which is highly disturbing.  The headline says it all “Judge adjourns case for a week after reports of ‘barristers abusing court staff'”

This, if established, is appalling behaviour. Rude, abhorrent and in all probability against the interests of those the barristers were there to represent.

THE CASE

The Mail was reporting on a CVP hearing in a criminal case. It started 90 minutes late because of a lengthy sentencing before the hearing.

BARRISTERS REPORTED TO HAVE BEEN ABUSIVE TO STAFF

The hearing got started, but was adjourned for a week to be a hearing in person. However the judge had another concern.

 

“But he tore into the assembled counsel, telling them that three members of court staff had been to see him in the 10 minutes before their case was called on saying that three barristers – not named in court – had been ‘abusive’ to staff.”
“He told the prosecutor he had one senior member of staff speak to him ‘absolutely outraged that members of the bar and or solicitors have descended to the level of abuse that they did’.
Judge Gledhill added to the Crown’s barrister: “I’m not suggesting for a minute you are the person or one of the people who threw this abuse at court staff.”

NO MORE THROWING TOYS OUT OF PRAMS

The report goes on.

“I don’t want any more throwing toys out of prams in this case,” he told the assembled senior counsel.”

 THIS IS RUDE AND ABHORRENT AND CERTAINLY NOT PROFESSIONAL

This is a report, I stress, and nothing has been established.  However if it is true it is certainly abhorrent.

POSTS FROM THE PAST

In 2014 I wrote STANDING UP FOR COURT STAFF: WE ARE ON THE SAME SIDE AND CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT THEM

I recorded the help I have been given by court staff over the previous month.

“Litigation is a human process. Court staff are part of that process.  I suspect they are having a particularly tough time of it and, for the most part, remain unappreciated.  Good court staff can make a major difference to the client’s experience of the trial/hearing process. They make a difference to the advocates’ experience of the process (although we have broader shoulders and matter much less I am sure).
As a profession it behoves us, I think, to recognise the difficulties experienced by the people we deal with on a day to day basis. We should recognise (and record) outstanding assistance by those we work alongside.”

To be honest this is probably something I should have been doing regularly since.   There have been numerous occasions where staff have helped.

ADVICE FROM THE NICE LAWYERS ON TWITTER

I have regularly “crowd-sourced” advice from Twitter and other sources.  There has been a strong emphasis on the need to be pleasant to everyone, particularly court staff.  Here’s some advice culled from previous posts.

 

Always make friends with court staff. Be nice to everyone you interact with, especially difficult opponents. When things go wrong or you are challenged as to why X hasn’t been done yet, radical honestly and humility go a long way with the bench
LawMan @Lawforall007
Treat ushers and HMCTS admin staff with kindness and respect. You never know when you might need an adjournment, case put back, photocopy etc. These are people that have the ear of the judge and listing staff. Rudeness to court staff is the height of stupidity.

Davida Blackmore @AdvocateDVB

Also be respectful to court staff and everyone involved in the legal system. You are not better than the usher/secretary/clerk just because you’re doing the speaking bit. Everyone is important (also the nicer you are to people the more likely they will help you out if needed!

4. MANNERS MAKETH THE ADVOCATE

This was a few from a Bench Clerk in New Zealand, 20 points after spending 12 years watching advocates in action.

  • ” Remember that someone is always watching you wherever you are in the building and word quickly gets around. It should not surprise you to know that the clerk in your court does discuss you with the Magistrate/Judge before they enter the court. Make sure that you leave a favourable impression, which leads me to tip #2.”

 ” Use your manners. With EVERYONE. Mind your Ps and Qs with court staff, police, other lawyers and most of all your clients.”

BE KIND TO PEOPLE: ADVICE FROM SB

The Secret Barrister @BarristerSecret

Be kind to people. Few can expect to be the best lawyer in the room, but anyone can be the nicest.