Jean-Yves Gilg

Editor, Solicitors Journal

The importance of 
time keeping

The importance of 
time keeping


District Judge Nigel Law urges solicitors to be mindful of the judges and court staff and follow the timetable set out by the court

I was last Wednesday
sitting in a seaside court and, being a dutiful son, I agreed to pay in some cheques for my mother at a branch of her bank. To avoid delay, or so I thought, I was by the front door before 9.30, with no queue in sight, when I noticed that on a Wednesday the branch was shut. I have to admit I was frustrated but resolved to try again on the Thursday morning.

This time I was late, admittedly by only a minute or so, but in a queue of eight. There were two cashiers and each did their job diligently but, in a perfect version of customer relations, had lengthy discussions with their customer, as if they were old friends, about holidays, walks, and the weather, while I stood in the queue wanting to push them out of the way so I wasn't late for court.

I didn't do that and childishly resorted to swinging my keys around my finger with the hope that someone would notice my impatience. All that happened was a glance from the cashier, who seemed to extend the conversation just to see how angry I would get.

In the end I paid in the cheques and reached my court in time. I settled myself at my computer, logged in, picked up my list, and checked that I remembered the facts of the application before the telephone conference started at 10.

The operator didn't come through until 12 minutes past: she explained that she couldn't contact the applicant's solicitor.

Why do I tell you this? It's because none of us like to be kept waiting, particularly judges, when the next case is listed at 10.30 and the time estimate for this telephone application is 30 minutes.

Telephone conference

No apology was forthcoming when the connection was made, and no explanation given, just an impression that his time was more important than mine.

May I remind solicitors of the requirements of practice direction 23A 6.10(1).The designated legal representative is responsible for arranging the telephone conference for precisely the time fixed by the court.

When I was in practice, I would never have dared to keep a judge waiting, but today unfortunately it is becoming commonplace.

Late arrivals

Ushers in all the courts where I sit moan that so and so didn't arrive until a minute before the case was to be called and then disappeared into conference. Is it too much to ask that solicitor advocates at least do one of two things:

  • Ask to see the judge to explain why they are late and to ask for time; or

  • As a poor alternative, ask the usher to see if the judge will give them ten minutes?

In both circumstances the answer is more likely than not to be yes. So why, on more occasions than not, do the solicitor advocates then try to take three times as long, without any permission, and without the courtesy of a further visit to the judge or a further message.

As I continue with this rant, why, after all this purposeful delay, do the solicitor advocates want to come into court ten minutes before lunch when they know that they are going to need at least 40 minutes of the judge's time?

Do they not realise that judges will have been working on other case papers while waiting, that judges are entitled to a full lunch break, and that, more importantly, their ushers are entitled to their full lunch break?

Please have pity upon us
as judges, and upon our staff,
for we are human and we deserve and are entitled to our lunch breaks as much as any one else, and I resolve not to lose my patience in a bank queue: the cashiers are doing their job as much, as I, my judicial colleagues, and our ushers are doing daily.

District Judge Nigel Law sits at Blackpool County Court and Family Court and is media and PR officer for the Association of Her Majesty’s District Judges