Court Proceedings from the Perspective of a New Legal Assistant By Braxton Mounteer

I have finished my first week as a legal assistant. In that time, I have been to a few court proceedings. Previous to taking this job as a legal assistant, my only interaction with the court was being summoned for jury duty.

I have found that real life legal work is different from what you see in the movies and TV shows. Frankly, I prefer the dramatized versions.

The court proceedings that I have watched or participated in this week have been online via Webex. Remote court appearances are a huge convenience over the bad old days when everyone had to appear physically in a courtroom. I have seen people apprear for court proceedings via Webex in their cars, bedrooms, living rooms, from prison, their offices, and one cabin so far. People can still show up to court in person (sometimes they must), but they are then also included on the video call, if other participants appear via Webex.

I have seen sentencing, an adoption case, rescheduling, and objections all within the span of an hour. I saw a lawyer ask the court for directions on how to proceed because she had never appeared in that kind of proceeding before.

Many court case proceedings are scheduled at the same time, but don’t happen all that the same time. This has been lovingly referred to as “the cattle call”. People often wait up to an hour or more before their case is heard. This is one reason why remote appearances are a convenience; rather than having to twiddle your thumbs waiting at the courthouse, you can be at work or home and work or do other things while you wait until your case is finally called.

For the most part, court proceedings are a boring experience to the outside observer. There aren’t many “high-octane” moments where the bad guys almost win or the surprise witness bursts through the door. It often seems to me to be a matter of who the better b.s. artist is. This is where lawyers as a profession get their reputation for “gotcha” phrasing. I have seen entire arguments or refutations hinge on a single word. These aren’t arguments that would save or destroy the world, they are largely about whether something should happen. I think that the reason many proceedings are largely boring is due to the fact that they involve regular people. Regular people aren’t in charge of the fate of the world, just their own. If I was watching major corporations being taken down for nefarious deeds, then it would be more dramatic. I think that people forget that regular everyday life is everywhere, even in the courtroom.

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