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How NOT to Become a Judge's Least Favorite Lawyer

By William Vogeler, Esq. on December 17, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

If you look at the Ten Commandments, most of them tell you what not to do.

That's because people -- with exceptions, like Santa Claus -- are generally inclined to do the wrong thing. It's what we do.

Lawyers are even worse; just look at all the "shall-nots" in ethics rules. With apologies to Moses, here are some rules on how not to become a judge's least favorite lawyer.

Thou Shalt Not Mansplain

If the Old Testament had been written today, a prohibition against mansplaining would be in there. It would come right after not coveting your neighbor's wife.

Seriously, the temptation that male attorneys sometimes feel to talk down to female judges has to stop. It's symptomatic of a deeper sin: lawyers thinking they are smarter than judges.

Lawyers may be smart -- with exceptions -- but an attorney should never be condescending to a judge. If you haven't noticed, the bench is higher than the bar.

Thou Shalt Not Use Legalese

Studies show judges hate legalese. So why do lawyers continue to talk and write like that?

When lawyers default to archaic verbosity, it's really a sign of lazy thinking. They can't think of a more concise way to communicate.

Four-letter words are concise, but that's not what we're talking about. We're talking about how not to offend the court.

Thou Shalt Not Ask for That

Sometimes you have to play it by ear because all judges are not created equal. Some judges like this, and definitely not that.

Judge Vanessa D. Gilmore, for example, really doesn't like attorneys "whining" for extensions. In her "least favorite case," she told the attorneys to stop trying to become her least favorite lawyers.

"The Court is in receipt of the parties' whiny letters," she wrote in non-legalese. "What is wrong with you parties/lawyers? Just STOP IT!"

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