Tips & Tricks on Communicating with the Court

By Rachel Malerbi, Continuing Education Committee Member

In my work as a Senior Paralegal for a Family Law Firm in Northern California, I must communicate quite regularly with a variety of courts. Currently, our office has cases in the following counties: Amador, El Dorado, Nevada City, Placer, Sacramento, Sonoma, Sutter, Yolo, and Yuba. The following are a few tips that I have found helpful over the years.

First and foremost, I am a big believer in the old proverb you can catch more flies with honey. With the court especially, it is always much easier to get what you want by being polite rather than by being rude or even insolent.

Second, try and call the court early in the morning. I try and aim for about 5 minutes from when they start answering the phones. I have found that my wait time is usually less in the morning than when I call in the afternoon. Be prepared that you will have wait time. There are days that I have been on hold for less than 5 minutes and other days when the wait time has been close to 45 minutes or even an hour or more. I always prepare to work on a project on days I have to call the court I can easily pause or will use this time to try and get caught up on some emails so I can remain productive.

Be prepared. Have the case number and case information ready. The court clerks appreciate you being ready with the information they will need. If I am calling about a particular court date, I have all the information (date, time, department, etc.).

Always get the name of the person you are talking to. If during the conversation they say they will need to get back to you, ask if they can provide a direct line or an email address in case something happens, and you need to reach them again. If the clerk says they will send you something by email, ask if you can remain on hold with them to ensure you receive the email. Now this will not always work, and you may even hear that they are not allowed to do that, but it is always worth asking. Remember, what works in one county does not guarantee that it will work somewhere else, but again it is always worth asking in my opinion.

I have a binder that I call my “Work Bible.” I have a section for each court with important information on a particular county. Often the information will include phone numbers, email addresses, Judge assignments, continuance procedures, specific local rules, etc. I am always adding and updating this information as changes occur and it has been a real lifesaver over the years.

And last but not least, show appreciation and thank the clerk (or whoever you talk to with the court). Sometimes you will get information that might not be the most helpful, or even what you want to hear, but do not forget to show your appreciation. Remember you very well may need to talk to this same person again in the future!

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