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Court Etiquette

There is much literature available on court etiquette and a variety of meanings given to the expression. This section discusses court etiquette in the context of the standard of behaviour expected of legal practitioners when working in the court precinct, and will not cover professional duties as outlined in the Australian Solicitors’ Conduct Rules. When at court, legal practitioners are expected to behave in a manner supportive of the solemnity of the court’s position and of the occasion of the defendant’s hearing.

Appropriate attire

There is an expectation for men to always wear a jacket and a tie when they appear in court. On occasion, when the weather is hot, a Magistrate may give leave for jackets to be removed. Women are expected to attend court wearing the equivalent of office attire, with a degree of modesty.

Before court

Preparedness for the court appearance is of upmost importance. In addition to the particulars of the matter for which the legal practitioner is appearing, knowledge of court procedure is also required.

Report to the court

It is important that all legal practitioners report to the Court before the commencement of the list and the duty solicitor is no exception. It is important to arrive in court on time. Whilst it can be difficult, efforts should be made to not keep a court waiting whilst occupied in other courts for other matters. Where this cannot be avoided, it is important that the duty solicitor ensure that court staff are aware of their whereabouts. Where a court has been waiting for an appearance, it is important to apologise to the Court for the delay and provide the reason for the delay at the outset.

Relations with court staff

It is important that duty solicitors are courteous to the Court, court staff and prosecution. Every staff member at court has a job to do and it is important that the duty solicitor is respectful to all members of the Court as a matter of professional courtesy, and because it will make working life easier when he/she is inevitably delayed in making an appearance in court.


Once the duty solicitor has seen the people in custody in the morning, they must tell the orderly in Court 2 which people they will be representing and what will be happening with each. For example: ‘I’m appearing for Anderson, Roberts and Jenkins. The first two are bail applications, and Jenkins is a remand.’

This ensures not only that the duty solicitor has checked in as required, but having done this as soon as they have seen the people in custody, court staff will know that they are ready to proceed with those matters, and any delays will not be due to them.

If the duty solicitor checks in but then has to leave to attend another court, to appear in a matter, the duty solicitor should ask the orderly to hold their matters and tell him or her which court they are going to.

Entering the courtroom

When entering and leaving the courtroom, all legal practitioners are expected to acknowledge the presence of a Judge or Magistrate with a bow, and then to sit in the body of the courtroom in a manner which minimises disruption.

While waiting to appear

Sometimes waiting for a court appearance can be frustrating for junior counsel because counsel appear on matters in order of seniority. It is important to remain patient and courteous when waiting for a matter to be called on. It is considered inappropriate for practitioners to talk loudly inside the courtroom (and outside the courtroom where they can be heard) while awaiting their turn, or to move around the courtroom in a disruptive manner. Mobile telephones must be turned off and solicitors should not play games or read newspapers while waiting. The court must be silent and still when the court is being opened or closed, when a person is taking an oath or affirmation, when a person is being sentenced, a judgment is being delivered, or a prisoner is being arraigned.

At the bar table

Duty solicitor's must always stand up straight and look the Judge or Magistrate in the eye when addressing them. The appearance should be announced by the legal practitioner by introducing themselves and the party for whom they are appearing. For example, ‘If your honour pleases - [surname] for the defendant who is [or is not] present’. When addressing the bench “Your Honour” is appropriate to address men and women of the judiciary; “Sir” is an appropriate address for male members of the judiciary, however, do not use “ma’am” when addressing a female member of the judiciary as it may be seen as offensive.

A legal practitioner should always stand when addressing the Judge or Magistrate, or when the Judge or Magistrate is addressing them. It is important to always speak from the bar table and not from elsewhere in the body of the court. A legal practitioner should never speak when someone else is speaking (especially the Judge or Magistrate, and including prosecution). Most importantly, legal practitioners should display graciousness, especially in defeat, and respond with ‘as Your Honour pleases’ or ‘may it please Your Honour’.


A duty solicitor should never interrupt the Judge or Magistrate, or prosecution when they are speaking. If the duty solicitor is interrupted during their submissions by opposing counsel they should simply stop and sit down. A duty solicitor should speak clearly, show respect to the court clerk and always spell difficult words.

Senior Counsel

It is important for junior counsel to always show respect to senior counsel. Where there are multiple counsel at the bar table appearing for a matter, senior counsel occupy the bar table with the most senior in the centre chair.

Leaving the bar table

The bar table must never be left unoccupied during the hearing of a court list. A legal practitioner must remain at the bar table until they are given leave of the court to vacate the bar table, or until the next matter on the list is called, or until the court adjourns.

Court Etiquette  :  Last Revised: Mon May 21st 2012