Too few business owners have significant experience with the legal process. In fact, most don’t have any experience until they end up in a dispute or other court process. As a result, you may feel unprepared or overwhelmed if you have to appear in court. If your business is headed to court, there are some things you will need to keep in mind, and there are some preparatory steps you should take as soon as possible to help protect your rights and improve the chances of a favorable outcome.
Your Best Behavior
No matter how frustrating the experience may be, or how unprepared you feel, you need to bring a good attitude and self-control. You want to get the judge on your side, and if you are causing trouble, that won’t happen. You also don’t want to end up in contempt of the court, since that can cause more trouble for you, even if you win your case.
Unless you are a sole proprietor, there is a very good chance the courts in your state will not allow you to represent your business in civil proceedings. Your business is a separate identity from you, even if you pour your whole life into it. Arguing on a separate entity’s behalf in a court of law is technically representing a client, and unless you are also a business lawyer, that’s something you can’t legally do. If you don’t already have a business lawyer that you work with, it is important to find one quickly. Your lawyer will help you figure out how to properly proceed with your situation.
Copies of Evidence
It is vitally important you retain copies of all the evidence you plan to present at trial. Your lawyer will have already submitted it to the judge but having a second copy that you can refer to is always a good idea. Make sure you keep the original copy in a safe place, as the judge won’t be returning any of the evidence to you.
When you are under a lot of pressure, it can be easy to forget things, and that goes double for remembering any prepared statements. If you are going to be making a statement in court, you should practice it ahead of time, but you should also write down exactly what you want to say and bring those notes with you. It isn’t a bad thing to read a prepared statement or to refer to your notes when answering a question.
Ultimately, you shouldn’t panic over this. Unlike the way they are portrayed on tv sometimes, the judge is not your enemy. Just behave, be respectful, and listen to your lawyer.