First Chair Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of First Chair, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is First Chair?

A case’s lead attorney.

History and Meaning of First Chair

The term "First Chair" has its origins in the musical world, particularly in orchestras where it refers to the lead violinist who sits at the front and takes the lead. In the legal world, First Chair similarly refers to the lead attorney, usually the one with the most experience and responsibility for the case. Being the First Chair means being the responsible party for the case, in charge of the case strategy, presenting the opening and closing statements, and conducting any examination of witnesses.

Examples of First Chair

  1. In a criminal trial, the first chair is the senior attorney who is responsible for leading the defense team and may question key witnesses.

  2. In a civil lawsuit, the first chair may be the lead trial attorney who interacts with the judge on behalf of the client.

  3. When a firm prepares for an appeal, it usually selects an experienced attorney, who acts as the first chair to give guidance and advice to the rest of the attorneys in the firm and the client.

Legal Terms Similar to First Chair

  1. Second Chair: Refers to an attorney who is second in charge, responsible for supporting the first chair in a trial.

  2. Co-Counsel: Refers to two or more attorneys who work together and share the responsibility of the case equally.

  3. Senior Counsel: Refers to an experienced attorney, typically of counsel, who provides guidance to junior attorneys.