What is the importance of effective local counsel?
Effective local counsel is important for several reasons. These reasons range from understanding local rules and customs to having a pragmatic grasp of considerations that impact local judges’ time constraints, judicial demeanor, and practices and procedures. The reasons are as follows:
First, it is important to have an attorney who knows the local rules and practices. Every jurisdiction has different rules and practices. An example is in some jurisdictions outside of Florida, every motion gets submitted with a memorandum or a brief. In Florida, we have a procedure in state court called uniform motion calendar where basic motions, including discovery motions, are heard and decided during a 5 to 10 minute hearing without any briefing. It is also important to know that state court judges do not have law clerks, so keeping motions and memoranda shorter and to the point is often more effective if you want your papers read by the judge.
Second, it is important to know how long it will take a case to get through the local court system and know that local practices that will enable you to get your case decided more efficiently and cost effectively. In state, Florida has special rules where a case cannot be noticed for trial until 20 days after the final pleading is served (usually an Answer or Reply to Affirmative Defenses). Moreover, every time a party serves an amended pleading, by rule, the case must be removed from the trial docket as it is no longer “at issue.”
Third, it is critical to know the judge and have the judge know your counsel. While judges make every attempt to be impartial to all lawyers, having a local lawyer with a reputation and credibility before the court helps when it comes to tough decisions. When a judge knows he or she can rely upon the argument or statements of counsel, it often will make matters run more smoothly and helps the court focus on the material issues in the case.
In sum, retainer a local lawyer who knows the dynamics, the rules, and customs of the local judges and courthouses is advantageous to obtaining a favorable resolution to your case.