Monday, October 17, 2011

Prosecutor Prefers Punctuality

Below is a submission from one of our regular contributors, a veteran Texas prosecutor, on one of his pet peeves - the tardy attorney.


"Better never than late." -George Bernard Shaw

It's funny that when you look back on your childhood, things make sense in retrospect.  Remember school bells?  Remember the kids that walked into class after the bell rang?  No, not the student who came in with a note in her hand.  Maybe she'd been in the nurse's office?  And not the one who flew through the door with total desperation plastered on his face. "Mom got a ticket this morning!" No, I'm talking about the ones who, at least enough times to make you remember, waltzed in a couple of minutes after the bell and lazily took their seat.  It's almost like their ears were immune to the sounds of the bell.  Or more likely that they just didn't care about the rules.  They were the tardy ones.  Oooooh.  That's right - ooooooh, because they usually got in trouble for their tardiness.  Detention, principal's office, or whatever, there was always a consequence for being tardy.  Were they the honor roll students?  Of course not.  They were the slackers.  I wonder what ever happened to those kids?

Courthouses should have bells.  Seriously.  I've practiced law in numerous courts now, and it never fails.  I see tardy lawyers just like the tardy students I remember from school.  Not the lawyer who has four case settings in four different courts, who rushes in late, approaches the bench and notifies the court of his hectic morning schedule.  Not the one who rushes past the bar with a ticket in his hand. "Your Honor, I apologize for being late." Nope, I'm still talking about the ones that walk in late, act like they own the place and pay no mind to the clock.  The tardy ones.

Sometimes there are consequences for their tardiness, but very seldomly.  My experience is that most of the time judges just turn a blind eye toward it.  Sure, every now and then, a lawyer will walk in late and catch the judge on a bad day and reap a good butt-chewing, but it's usually just ignored - and that's unfortunate.

As a lawyer, regardless of who your client is, you owe a professional courtesy to the court, other attorneys, and most importantly, your client.  I know a lot of the tardy attorneys I see think they're exuding confidence.  "I'm my own person.  I'll show up when I want to.  I'll make make my entrance." Truth is, your entrance reminds everybody of the tardy kids in school.  The slackers.  And we know the reputation they garnered.  You also help me realize the lesson I learned from having bells in school.  That's right, I try to never be late for court.

Thanks for the soapbox.