This week in Young, Hungry and Committed, virtual office attorney, Vivian Sobers explains the differences between the NYC and other courts.
I feel as though I live in court. Any court. Every court. In fact, if you need to mail me something, just address it c/o any court in New York State. I know it will get to me. I spend all my time there. I network there. I am recognized there. I should just change my Facebook relationship status to reflect my commitment.
I know what you are thinking: why is a lawyer complaining about court. Didn’t you sign up for that with your three-year law school odyssey.
Yes. I did sign up for it.
I love court. It inspires me. In fact, to me, each court is like a person. Each has its own idiosyncrasies and personality.
The “feel” of each court is different. The level of decorum between attorneys is different. And I think it is really important information for lawyers to know. Lawyers share this information at my shared law office, but if you are working from home, it might be harder to find.
Trust me, going to a new court can be an intimidating experience. I wish someone would have told me about the sociology of each court when I started my practice. In that vein, here is my analysis of some of the NYS Supreme courts I have appeared in:
What an Attorney Can Expect in Bronx County Supreme Court
The attorneys in Bronx Supreme are very friendly. You hear a lot of friendly hellos in the hallways. While I appreciate social niceties, I do not appreciate the sense of panic I feel every time I walk in. Frankly, it is utter chaos.
In the Bronx, most cases are conferenced in one large room. It can be really intimidating for a newly admitted attorney. You walk into a room with maybe 200 attorneys all yelling out their case names or opposing counsel’s law firm name so that you can conference the case.
I can always spot the new lawyers. They are the ones frozen near the entrance door just trying to comprehend the scene. I do my best to help them understand the chaos. I would have appreciated someone offering me some advice on how to navigate the Bronx court for my first appearance, so I try to give back. Oh, and the Wi-Fi there is really good.
What a Lawyer Can Expect in New York County Supreme Court
To me, New York County has a more civilized feel than any other court. Part of this may be that I believe there are fewer attorneys in the court at a given time. In my opinion, it has a more serious tone. It’s like a formal living room. It is in the house and decorated impeccably, but rarely used.
In my experience, New York County judges expect more from attorneys than in other counties. Most cases are actually conferenced with either the judge or court attorney; whereas in other counties like Bronx or Queens or even Kings you can just agree with your opposing counsel and submit that agreement for signature.
In a way, this is what I envisioned court to be like when I was in law school. It may sound childish, but I really feel like a lawyer when I am conferencing with a judge.
The problem with New York County is that your individual cases are spread out over several different buildings within the complex. It can make figuring out where you must appear more difficult than say, in the Queens or Nassau County.
This problem is acerbated by a difficult to navigate website. It’s really hard to tell from the web which building your case is going to be in. I always recommend showing up early. If you have a 9:30 AM call time, get there at 9 AM, just in case you end up in the wrong building and have to run across the complex. (Trust me, running in heels is not easy.)
What an Attorney Can Expect in Queens County Supreme Court
Queens Supreme is “organized” chaos. It is just as chaotic as the Bronx, but it has an internal logic to it. All compliance conference or status conferences are dealt with in one room in the morning session. Then, all motions are generally dealt with in that same room but in the afternoon. This makes sense (at least to me).
Mind you, like Bronx Supreme there will still be 200 attorneys yelling out names at the same time, but it feels like the yelling is softer. I don’t know how to explain it. I guess it’s because I feel the attorneys are really friendly there. Unlike New York County, you can feel comfortable asking a question. I have met really good networking partners while navigating that room. Also, their website is the easiest to navigate out of any court I have appeared in.
What an Attorney Can Expect in Nassau County Supreme Court
If you go to Nassau County everyone pretty much knows each other; like they have been in that court for years. It’s almost reminiscent of transferring to a new high school. You know?
Everyone is saying hello to each other and you’re the new kid on the block that everyone looks at suspiciously. Seriously, the first time I had an appearance in Nassau, I was the recipient of at least ten malicious glances. I don’t do much work in Nassau County, so I just chalked it up to an insular legal community.
If looks could kill…
What an Attorney Can Expect in Richmond County Supreme Court
Richmond County is Staten Island. I have only been once. It is well organized. Very much like Nassau County, just smaller and with fewer attorneys. The attorneys were on a first name basis with each other. I think because it is a smaller community, the attorneys were a little guarded. They were friendly and helpful, but to the point. Let’s just say I wasn’t going to have a conversation longer than 10 seconds with any of them. I think if I were in Richmond County Supreme more they would have accepted me into their group.
What an Attorney Can Expect in Monroe County Supreme
By contrast, per diem work brought me to Monroe County Supreme Court, which is located in Rochester, NY. Many of you will never have to navigate your way through this court, but I thought it would be interesting to mention, if nothing else but to provide a snapshot of what you will likely find outside the New York Metro area.
Monroe Supreme is much different than a NYC court. First, I stuck out like a sore thumb. I believe this is because everyone knows each other. In fact, the judge was referring to the attorneys by their first names: “Cindy, how many cases of these are yours?” The judge even welcomed me to the court!
The attorneys were really friendly there. They initiated conversation with me immediately and answered any questions I had. One attorney even recommended the best local lunch spot within walking distance from the court.
Do you agree with me?
Leave a comment and let me know if my experiences with these courts are similar/different to yours.
My name is Vivian Sobers. I am young, hungry and navigating the New York State Supreme Court system. I have weathered one year of challenges in private practice. Despite the challenges that lie ahead, I am committed to replicating my success for many years to come.
Vivian Sobers is a commercial litigator pursuing a solo law practice right out of law school. She is a client in Law Firm Suites’ Virtual Office Program. Vivian’s weekly blog series “Young, Hungry and Committed” documents the trials and tribulations of a young attorney navigating her way through the challenging world of self-employed legal practice.