It was during my apprenticeship during the course of my studying for the LLB exams that I was informed that I would need to go and get a Black Suit, some white collared shirts and a Black Tie in order to dress appropriately before going to Court. I was told in no uncertain terms that even though I was studying to become a qualified lawyer, I would need to be actively involved in all aspects of case preparation and get familiar with my ‘new skin’, so as to speak. Those were exciting times – the introduction of becoming a part of a vast community of well respected and professionally competent legal technicians. Growing up, I was fond of watching legal sitcoms such as L.A. Law, Perry Mason, Boston Legal, The Practice, amongst many others (having the luxury of time-to-waste). My introduction to a Courtroom as a child and as an adolescent teen was through a television screen and what captured my imagination the most was not how ‘slick’ and well dressed the attorneys looked nor how well-scripted the scenes were to reflect a particular lawyer’s creativity and brilliance in arguing a case, but the attention paid to the details of the observance of courtroom etiquette i.e. how the general public is supposed to act during court proceedings, the norms of addressing a judge or jury and the limits and disciplines under which the officers of the Court were to perform their functions.

There are of course, many ways a practicing lawyer can learn the particular etiquettes required of an Advocate, before a Court and with respect to Clients – Watch and observe other lawyers in Court; read, absorb and inculcate Chapter XII of the Pakistani Legal Practitioners and Bar Council Rules 1976 - ‘Canons of Professional Conduct and Etiquette of Advocates’; or have the fortunate opportunity of learning from a Senior lawyer on the Job. A combination of the above may be adequate, but no doubt, having a Senior Counsel share his personal experiences of ‘dos’ and ‘dont’s’ in the Courtroom is invaluable. This is all the more necessary as the adherence to such Courtroom etiquette are also indirectly linked with ‘advocacy’ – which skill is essential for a practicing lawyer to have up his sleeve on a day when a particular judge may not be inclined to grant the relief that is being sought. Rising when a Judge enters the Courtroom, bowing before the Court upon entering and leaving a Courtroom, addressing a Judge as “Your Honor”, “Your Lordship” or “My Lord”, turning off one’s mobile/ cellphone before entering Court and at all times being conscious of upholding the respect and dignity of the Court whilst appearing before it, are just some etiquettes that are important to know. Another one I did not know of and learnt the hard way was that a Counsel is not supposed to turn his back towards the Bench in Court – this was pointed out to me whilst assisting my Ustaad before the Supreme Court of Pakistan; lucky for me, it happened during my apprenticeship and I have never forgotten about it!

It seems as if nowadays, some members of our ‘respected’ community have forgotten their etiquettes. Aside from the repeated media reporting of lawyers being disrespectful and sometimes unruly towards Court staff and Judges amongst the subordinate Courts, or the intentional interruption of arguments by an opposing Counsel of another Counsels’ arguments whilst at the rostrum, it is apparent that the lack of attention to adhering to certain revered etiquettes has become a prevailing theme and is surely worrying for our future generations. Some months ago, we were appearing before a Judge of the High Court in a Constitutional matter. Whilst waiting for our case to be called, we witnessed a truly unpleasant sight – a senior Lawyer berating a sitting Judge for passing an Order that the lawyer obviously thought was a ‘travesty of justice’. The tirade was so relentless that the Honorable Judge decided to get up and leave the Courtroom. My Ustaad was visibly upset at this and could not fathom as to how his beloved profession of over 50 years had degenerated that much.

In conclusion, I would like to end this piece with a quote by a renowned American lawyer of the 19th Century, Mr. Daniel Webster, that I hold dear to me, on what it means to be a lawyer and hope that it may resonate:

 “I love our common profession, and love all who honor it. I regard it as the great ornament and one of the chief defenses and securities of our institutions. It is indispensable to and constructive of public liberty. I honor it from the bottom of my heart. If I am anything, it is the law, that notable profession, that sublimes science, which we all pursue, that has made me what I am. It has been my ambition, nay with my youth to be thought worthy to be ranked under the banner of that profession.”