As an attorney, I spend a lot of time in court. When I arrive at the courthouse, I notice immediately that many people are not dressed appropriately. It’s not just one demographic, or age, or race. Across the board, many people who enter our courthouse do so unsuitably, and often at their own peril. Make no mistake, the courthouse is a place where your rights are determined. You can walk in with freedom, but walk out in custody. Rights to property that you own can be limited or taken away inside the courthouse. You could be ordered to pay out large sums of money. You could even lose custody of your children. If so much is at risk, why show up to court without looking your best?
The decision makers inside the courthouse are human and first impressions count. For the most part, judges and jury members will know very little about parties to a case. In forming their opinion of the case, they examine all evidence and will determine who and what they believe to be credible. While the outcome of a case should not turn on your appearance, it is human for a decision maker to form an opinion (even if only momentarily) about your credibility based on your overall appearance. Simply put, there is too much at risk inside of the courthouse for your appearance to play any role in the outcome of your case. If you ever have to attend court, here are a few tips for looking your best.
First, when you go to court, dress nicely.
Wear something that is conservative and that does not draw unwanted attention. Stay away from jeans, shorts, t-shirts, tank tops, or sandals, and don’t wear anything that may be considered obscene or offensive.
Next, be courteous to everyone you encounter.
We understand that you would rather be elsewhere, but being polite will make your court date a better experience for everyone. Remember to set your cellphone and all other electronic devices to off or vibrate. If you do not need them for your case, you should probably leave these devices at home or in your car. Do not chew gum.
Finally, if you are given the opportunity to speak to a judge or to the jury, speak loudly and clearly.
You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. If you have to go to court, make your first impression your best. Dress for the outcome you want.