Ask Judge Smith – My average work week: what the job entails

Question: “Judge Smith, how many hours a week do you work?” – Lyla

It depends.

I directly control the number of hearings and trials I set each week.

I have no control over new case assignments, same-day emergency hearings, and same-day filers. 

I am more familiar with my last docket, so I’ll answer your question based on it.

When I handled Leon County’s civil lawsuits, I held hearings and trials every other week.   

I know how long a hearing should take based on decades of experience and am efficient at spacing my day.

Being prepared allows me to listen and go straight to the heart of the matter.

Each day, when I arrived at work, I had a set schedule. I calendared 1 to 16  hearings per day, depending on the complexities involved. 

It takes me two to three hours of work studying casefiles and doing legal research for every hour I spend in court. 

Each workday sprung new matters too.

I fielded emergency motions, which I reviewed the same day and scheduled for a hearing within days.

The legislature required me to hear some cases more quickly than others by statute.  

Too often, parties filed lengthy position papers on the day of their hearings.

By then, I had already prepared. I used any spare time between hearings to read the new material.

Most days, I ate lunch at my desk, doing the extra reading and research. 

My office reserved early mornings, late afternoons, and Fridays for writing orders.

We scheduled hearings I expected to run long at the end of the day to provide extra time to finish.   

My office scheduled 8-12 trials per cycle, and I lined up as many courtrooms and judges as needed.

The parties settled most of their cases in response, and I tried two or fewer lawsuits per trial week. 

When I try a case, my workday begins at 7:30 a.m. and runs as late as 9 p.m.

The lawyers and I work during breaks.

When I was a private practice trial lawyer, I worked 60-80 hours per week, and I work no less now.

Owning a law firm and being a judge are both seven-days-per-week jobs.

Efficiency and productivity are musts.

I read over 1,500 pages from casefiles and the law each week, covering early mornings, late evenings, and weekends.

I wrote and signed dozens of orders each day.

My subconscious mind continued to mull over cases even when I wasn’t on the clock.

If I had a work epiphany, I stopped what I was doing and followed through.     

My office backfilled the time that opened on my calendar due to settlements and cancellations.

Otherwise, I used any free time between hearings to read, write, and research the law.  

 I had to multi-task to get the job done, and I cared about justice and getting it right.

I am grateful for the opportunity to serve you.

I’ll let you know how my current docket shapes up when I fully grasp it.

The Honorable J. Layne Smith is a Circuit Judge, bestselling author, and public speaker. – Send questions to


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