Can You Represent Yourself in Court?

There are several things that motivate people to represent themselves in court rather than getting a lawyer. In civil cases, some people can’t afford to get a lawyer. Some people just feel like they can defend their case on their own and would rather save the money. There are also cases where you aren’t allowed a lawyer, such as cases dealt in a small claims court.

Things to consider before you represent yourself!

Whatever the reason for self-representation in court, you have the right to do so. Before you decide to go down this route, however, you need to make sure you fully understand what you are expected to do and what is at stake if you decide to handle the situation by yourself.

Do I need a lawyer?

Prepare Yourself

Self-Representation Risks


Do you need a lawyer?

Having a professional to represent you is always a good idea. However, it is not always possible or necessary. If you have a straightforward case without an opposing side or where the other side agrees with you, you fully understand all the options available, the choices that you do make are informed, you have the motivation to learn the rules, laws, and procedures in relation to your case, you have the prep time, and you can follow written instructions and work alone, then you may not need a lawyer.

represent you properly.


Preparing Yourself  


There are some basic tips that can help you when it comes to representing yourself in court. Your first step would be to read up and fully understand all the relevant laws that affect and apply to your case. Also, make sure that you understand the court procedures so you can follow them during the day. You should take the time to look at all the options you can take to avoid going to court, such as alternative dispute resolution (ADR).

You need to make sure you are prepared, well organized, on top of deadlines, professional when in court, realistic about the judge’s capabilities, and respectful towards the judge. It is advisable to go to the courtroom where your hearing will commence to observe other cases.


Self-Representation Risks

With all of that said, it’s important that you know who you can reach out to for help

The main risk of representing yourself is losing your case, which could occur because you didn’t follow all the procedures that are required to take your case to trial. Or it could be because you didn’t meet all of the technical requirements needed to prove your case once it gets to trial. If you lose, you will be ordered to pay for the attorney fees and court costs of the other side by the judge. If this is the case, you will also acquire a judgment entered in opposition to yourself. This will be valid for 10 years and can be renewed every 10 years until the judgment has been paid. 

lawyer doesn’t mean that you’ve covered all your bases.

As great as it can be to successfully represent yourself, sometimes lawyers are essential. Typical examples include cases of malpractice, construction defect, those that involve a competing title for real estate, employment discrimination or wrongful termination, administrative appeals and writs, and other cases that are extremely complex. Just make sure you understand what you are getting yourself into before taking on the responsibility.