Tuesday, 2 July 2013

My first... solo court appearance

In my second week at MB, an associate asked the students who had access to a car and could assist with a job. Having met the qualifications for such a job, I set off for the associate’s office with pen and paper in hand (NOTE – to all incoming students, a pen and paper is your friend, never leave your office without it!) Thoughts raced through my mind of what it could be, was it a rush delivery of a document? Did he forget to put his dog outside and need me to rush home to do so? Whatever it was that needed to be done, I was game.

"I, a summer student with less than a month’s experience, am going to court to adjourn a trial?"

Once I arrived at his office, the associate said he needed me to appear in court to adjourn a trial date in a quasi-criminal matter at Provincial Offences Court. With an air of youthful confidence, I gave him a quick “sure, no problem!” My mood quickly turned though as soon as I left his office and, admittedly, I may have let out an audible “oh $#!+, what have I gotten myself into?” Feelings of excitement, nerves, doubt and dread all clouded my mind. I, a summer student with less than a month’s experience, am going to court to adjourn a trial? Just last week I learned how to properly spell ‘subrogation’ and finally figured out the office phones and now they wanted me to appear solo before the court? Despite his assurances that I would do great and that he would help me prepare, I still had reservations on how the whole situation would play out.

In the days leading up to my court appearance, the associate worked closely with me providing file details, tips on how to conduct myself at the hearing and even a quasi script that I could follow! The night before and the morning of my appearance was spent admittedly with butterflies in my stomach. After reviewing my notes and, in an effort to be “inspired”, watching Gregory Peck give closing arguments in To Kill A Mockingbird (thinking that is exactly how I will look in my appearance), I set off for court. After getting lost (more than once) and asking for directions (more than once) I arrived at the St. Catharines' Courthouse.

Not only did my experience involve an appearance, but it also involved me entering into brief negotiations with the prosecutor. I really got the full experience with this assignment! Finally, my name was called by the prosecutor; I made my way to the front of the courtroom and made my submissions before the Judge. I am happy to report that the request to adjourn the trial was approved. While not exactly “Gregory Peck-esque” in my delivery, I felt prepared and confident. Sometimes, as a student, the best learning experiences are the ones where you are forced to challenge yourself. Needless to say, I arrived back at the office feeling invigorated and refreshed at the thought of completing my first court appearance and regaled my fellow students with tales of conquering courtrooms.

My first appearance in court was most definitely exciting and gave me a feel for what it is like to be part of the MB Team. Also, it made me realize being a McCague Borlack LLP student is truly a “litigation 101” learning experience. If this is how it feels for every first, then I cannot wait for the next one to come along!
Garett H.