Practice Skills

A Question-and-Answer Session with Judge Joan P. Weber of the San Diego County Superior Court and 2014-2015 President of the California Judges Association, as told to Alex Calero

The number one mistake new lawyers make in the courtroom is inadequate preparation. Remember this may well be your first appearance in front of this particular judge. You want to make a good impression by being fully conversant on the facts and the law in your case. Be courteous to the court and opposing counsel. Rest assured that judges talk to each other about the performance of lawyers in their courtrooms. You do not want to start your legal career with a bad reputation. It's very difficult to overcome.

The best way to improve your legal writing is to find a mentor lawyer who is a good writer. See if the lawyer will agree to edit your writing. Also don't become too dependent on canned briefs. I can always tell when lawyers have filed a cut and paste motion.

One of the best ways for new lawyers to develop their legal skills outside the courtroom is to join a local Inn of Court. I have been involved in an Inn for almost 25 years and I still learn new ideas every time I attend. Plus it's an excellent way to network and get your name out in the community. I met many of my close friends in the legal community through my Inn.

My advice for a new lawyer who wants to become a judge is to make sure you are in the courtroom as much as possible. Spend some time in a public agency that will allow you to be in the courtroom on a regular basis. If you are in a job that doesn't get you in the courtroom enough, try to volunteer for a legal organization that will get you courtroom experience such as pro bono work through your local Bar. Also ask a local judge to be your mentor. I frequently have law students and lawyers spend the day with me and see what life on the bench is like. It can be an invaluable experience. Finally get out in the legal community. Be involved in Bar activities, specialty Bar Associations, etc. That type of networking will be essential when you decide to apply for the bench.

Courtroom Experience

courtroom skills