The Lawyer’s Closet: Seven Necessary Items to Drop in Your Carryon When Appearing in Court Outside Your Home Jurisdiction

A rarely-discussed topic in law is the carryon suitcase. Sure, the briefcase gets its share of the attention. The gym bag even gets mentioned every now and then. But, the carryon? It seems to get no written love in the legal BLAWging world.

I recently attended my first discovery conference hearing at none other than the Stanley Mosk Courthouse in sunny Los Angeles, CA. Seeing as my firm is located in Sacramento, CA, it was an early morning flight that got me to my hearing by 9:00am.

Given that I have flown cross-country and internationally more times than I can count on all my fingers and toes, I assumed that packing for quick same-day flights there and back would be a breeze.

Not so. I spent most of the night before my hearing pondering what essentials I would need in order to not only survive the flight, but to ensure I didn’t look like Frankenstein’ s younger sister when standing before the judge at the hearing.

Ultimately, I opted to pack light; I had only my purse and a rolling briefcase with me when I boarded my flight to Burbank, CA. Here are the essentials I brought with me to ensure a smooth hearing and painless flight:

Client Files: The most important item I packed (then checked and rechecked that I had packed) was my client files. If nothing else, I could have raccoon eyes and an untucked shirt, but these folders would have gotten me through the hearing.

Makeup Remover: If you couldn’t guess from my comment about raccoon eyes, it was high on my priority list to ensure I didn’t look like a bandit in front of the judge. If you’re worried about the 300ml limit, bring one or two makeup-removing wipes in a plastic sandwich bag. You will get through security, no problem, and you will not have runny mascara issues.

Makeup: Along with remover, I opted to bring my makeup with me on the flight. I actually did not have time to put my makeup on before entering the airport, and instead did it in the bathroom when I landed. I anticipated that even if my flight was delayed, I would still have time to put on makeup in the car on the way to Court. If you’re worried about space in your carryon, opt for the simple combo of mascara, eyeliner, and lip gloss. No one will notice if you don’t have a full face on if you have those three!

Toothbrush and toothpaste: These were a no-brainer for me. I knew that I would never be close enough that the judge could smell my coffee breath, but for self-confidence purposes I wanted minty-fresh breath when walking into that courtroom. Yes, I got a few weird looks in the bathroom at the courthouse, but it was worth it to have the knowledge that I wouldn’t be breathing espresso remnants at anyone, which everyone can appreciate.

Flat shoes: I, personally, believe that heels are a requirement in the courtroom. It doesn’t mean that I find them comfortable, however. I knew that I wanted to change out of my heels as soon as I possibly could, considering I’d woken up before most roosters on farms in Texas, and bringing a pair of flatten-able flats made this a reality for me. I planned ahead, though, and made sure that I had enough room left in my carryon so I could drop my heels into the bag once I finished at Court.

A ridiculous book: When getting ready to advocate for my clients, I always want to do something to shake all the jitters out. Changing my brain’s focus, even for a few minutes, really helps with this. Reading something frivolous, while on the flight or when sipping a coffee before the hearing, gives my brain the reset needed to dive into technical, legal advocacy. I know that mobile phones allow access to all manner of frivolous content, but I prefer a good old-fashioned, paper-paged book. Sure, it adds a pound or two to your carryon, but it’s worth it to get a chuckle.

Headphones: This is just a basic for any flight, bus ride, or road trip you ever venture on. Whether you want to listen to music, a podcast, or just have a reason to ignore the awkward person sitting next to you, headphones are a requirement. They came in handy for me, though, when there was a tremendous amount of background noise and the only way I could talk on the phone was to pop my earbuds in. I don’t think many leave home without headphones of some sort on a regular day, but these guys are necessary for airports and courthouses!

There you have it, my list of seven essentials for appearing for a hearing that is not located in your home jurisdiction. Dropping all seven of these items in my bag the night before saved me quite a bit of time the morning of my flight and hearing, and made my adventure to Stanley Mosk much more pleasant.