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When Life Happens and You Can't Make Court: What Do You Do?

By George Khoury, Esq. | Last updated on

Life can be a wonderful, albeit chaotic, and hopefully long and bounteous event for most attorneys. The chaos, though key to providing the variance that keeps life interesting, can sometimes raise the ire of court, like when you get a flat tire on the way there.

When disaster strikes last minute, do you know what to do in order to remain in the court's, and your opposing counsel's, good graces? What you do can make all the difference.

Here are three tips to help keep you out of trouble when it becomes clear that you're not going to make it to court on the day you're supposed to be there.

1. Drop Everything to Call the Court

The second you find out, positively, that you or another member of your firm, cannot make it to court, you need to drop everything to call the court. Do not make up excuses. Lying to the court is simply a risk not worth taking, if your dog ate your calendar and destroyed your phone, save both to show the court, as it is unbelievable without hard evidence.

Even if you have a valid reason, you can still potentially be sanctioned for not showing up. While the court may not hold it against your client that you couldn't make it, the court may definitely still hold it against you.

If you can't get through, call your office, or assistant, or a trusted colleague, and ask them to send a fax to the court clerk, while you send an email to the court clerk. Keep it short and sweet, and put something like "URGENT- Attorney in Case No. XXXXXX emergency" in the subject line, and tell them why you can't make it in one sentence, and request a phone call back.

2. Calling Opposing Counsel And Their Office

If you can't reach the court, and no one in your office can either, your best chance at getting notice to the court is calling your opposing counsel or their office. If you have their cell phone, call and send a text. Also, sending an email to them quickly can also work, as they may check their email when the case gets called.

If you find out the night before that you can't make it, notify your opposing counsel ASAP.

3. Ask Your Network to Network

If you, and your office, cannot get through to the court or opposing counsel, you can try to make a last ditch effort at using your extended network to help you out, if it's remotely possible. In certain high volume practices, like traffic or DUI, you may be able to email a list-serve of active practitioners who can notify a court-clerk on your behalf. In more minor matters, like an arraignment or traffic hearing, you may even be able to find coverage via a list-serve.

If you don't practice in these areas, you can try to reach out to a colleague who does, and request they send an email out for any attorneys located at X courthouse to call you. If you can reach a person at the courthouse, you can have them walk over in person to notify a clerk.

Have an open position at your law firm? Post the job for free on Indeed, or search local candidate resumes.

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