Preparing for a court appearance

Lawyers are involved in many court cases. The ones working on the case you are appearing in will explain what you should expect to happen on the day of the court appearance. They will also let you know about anything you should prepare for in advance.

- So I've got off the bus. What is my day through the courts gonna look like? Have you got any kind of idea about typical things that I might have to do?

- If I was going to court, I'd get there probably an hour early or maybe go for a coffee even before that, just so that I wasn't freaked out that I was gonna be late. Meet your lawyer as well before the hearing starts and any other, if you haven't got a lawyer, you know, meet your McKenzie Friend or whoever else is there to support you before just so that you can settle in and get ready. You go through kind of security when you get to court. It's a bit like a version of airport security, I guess, where you go through one of those scanners and put your things in a tray.

- And what happens if the worst happens, and you have to, like, miss your court date, or you get there late? Do we have any idea?

- If you miss your court date, it can get a bit tricky and a bit technical, depending on the area of law, you know, exactly what can happen. But some of the things that can happen is that the case gets decided in your absence, which you really don't want to happen because you haven't had a chance to put your case forward.

What to bring with you

Whatever type of court you are attending, you should make sure you have the case number with you. This will help you find where to go when you arrive at the court building. You can find the case number on your hearing letter.

You should bring any papers that you think you may need to bring for the hearing.

You must not take any weapons, glass or liquids other than non-alcoholic drinks or hand sanitiser.

Attending court as a witness

If you are appearing as a witness in a case you may want to prepare by reading the information on the Citizens Advice and Victim Support sites.

If you are summoned to be a witness, it is important that you attend – you might be arrested and taken to the court by the police if you do not.

Staff from the Witness Service are able to assist you before you attend court and whilst there. You can find out more about the Witness Service on the Citizens Advice website.


- What should my solicitor be doing when they're representing me in court, or I suppose, any legal advisor?

- They need to be really prepared. They need to understand your case. Any lawyer who's representing you in court has a duty to follow your instructions, and that just means what you've told them is your case, basically. And they absolutely cannot kind of, you know, make up their own instructions and kind of do things that you haven't given them permission to do. So they need to make sure they're following your instructions, make sure they're prepared. And not just prepared in terms of like, the law and the facts of your case, but prepared in terms of you and what your needs are when you're in the courtroom. Do you need any extra help so that you can participate in the court hearing? That could be like, if you need breaks or if you're showing signs during the court hearing that you are not keeping up or that you are kind of really distressed or something, then your lawyer should really be aware of those things so that they can step in and help you if they need to.

Does it matter who supports me in court proceedings?

The outcome of a court case can affect you in many ways. It can affect you emotionally, financially and have an effect on your relationship with your relatives and friends. So the answer has to be yes it does matter who supports you in court proceedings. But, there are other things to bear in mind when you are making your choice.

Regulated and unregulated lawyers

If you use a lawyer it is worthwhile to first check whether they are regulated (see Types of lawyers section for details of regulated lawyers). There is a common misconception that all lawyers are regulated, but this is not the case. If you use a lawyer regulated by an approved regulator of legal services , this means that:

  • their regulator sets standards for their training and education which they must meet
  • they have to follow a Code of Conduct and requirements set down by their regulator
  • you can check that they are on their regulator’s register and if there is any disciplinary action against them
  • they must have insurance to cover claims made if anything goes wrong
  • you can complain to the Legal Ombudsman about any problems with the service you receive


Unregulated help - McKenzie Friends

You may come across people called McKenzie Friends They provide support with court proceedings. If your budget will not stretch to using a regulated lawyer, support from a family member, friend or volunteer from a charitable organisation offering legal assistance can be very important.

It is worth remembering that McKenzie Friends are not regulated. This means that even when you pay for a legal service from a McKenzie friend, if things go wrong, you will not get the same protections you would if using a regulated lawyer.

See our information on McKenzie Friends to learn what they can and cannot do and how they could help you in court.

Disability support

If you have a disability, you can get support to help you during your visit. If you feel you require this, you must contact the court using the details provided on your letter. You must do this before the date of the hearing.

More on being due in court