Be Organized

Just like an attorney, a party needs to have an organized case in court. Every judge knows that parties in court are not lawyers and are usually nervous. However, having exhibits and documents organized makes the chances of success much higher because it makes the case go much smoother, especially when one is trying to collect money on an account.


Be Professional

Being well dressed and professional makes a good impression to the Court. Not everyone can afford the nicest clothing, but everyone has a "Sunday Best" outfit. Don't come to court in Jeans, T-Shirt, a Hat and/or Tennis Shoes. Courts are places to be respected and you must understand that. Additionally, I have found that well dressed people seem more confident and under control and more self-aware. Most judges, in a close case, will remember these subtle things when considering credibility issues.


Be Courteous

The Courtroom is not a place to pick fights with your opponent or cross talk. Additionally, it is not a place to argue with the court. This is very difficult for people in emotional cases but a very important thing to remember. The Judge is there to resolve the dispute and it is very difficult to do when the parties are arguing in the middle of the case. I personally had little tolerance for it as a Judge. You should prepare to go into the courtroom with the idea of presenting your case and preparing to counter the other side's facts in a respectful and dignified manner.


Do Not Overplay your Case

Make sure that your facts and damages fit what you are suing for. I saw a lot of cases where counterclaims were filed in breach of contract cases for "pain and suffering" just because they were sued. I would also see some ridiculous extra damages added in basic breach of contract actions just because they were "mad" at the defendant. Small Claims cases are usually straightforward claims for compensation. Filing for extreme damages usually makes your case weaker. Also, adding irrelevant claims waters down the relevant claims. Sometimes, its a good idea to run your case by a lawyer first to see what claims you should file and how you should proceed. It may be worth the cost of the consultation.


Settlement is Always an Option

You can always settle a case up to the day of the trial. Sometimes, its a good option. Even if you get all of your damages from a Judge, you have to collect the judgment. But, of you work out a settlement before court and the party pays you that day, you have your money in hand. The Judge can even do a settlement on the record for you. I have even settled cases in the middle of a trial. Certainty is sometimes good when faced with an uncertain result.