Representing yourself in court may not be your first choice… but lawyers are expensive!
Simply put, the average American can’t afford one!
Worst of all, as many as 71% of low-income Americans will experience at least one civil legal issue this year.
Most of them won’t be able to afford an attorney!
Fortunately, if you are diligent. The legal system doesn’t have to be complex.
YES, it is possible to win in court without a lawyer. Here are a few tips to help you along the way!
Before Representing Yourself in Court: Consider Your Options
Look, although many individuals can represent themselves in court. Some types of law are considered complex, and a simple mistake could land you in jail.
If you can’t afford to have an attorney represent you, be sure to consider your options:
- Consult with an attorney,
- Work with a public defender,
- Find a pro bono attorney.
Assuming you have decided that going pro se is the way you want to go, let’s dive in!
Tip #1: Learn The Law!
First and foremost, YOU MUST have at least a basic understanding of the laws that impact your case. Legal research can be overwhelming at first, but when you learn what you are looking for. It’s not that hard.
A few tools to use to learn the law:
- Local law library
- Google search
- Case directories such as: Justia.com, and Casetext.com
Check Your Local and State Resources
Check this out! Nearly every state, and even many cities, offer free information on how to represent yourself in court.
Be sure to check out your local government’s websites for more info.
Tip #2: Learn The Rules!
Equally as important as learning the law, knowing the rules and procedures of the court where your case will take place, is essential.
The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure are pretty simple and straightforward. They act as a thorough step-by-step guide on how to file a case in federal court.
If your case is to be held in a state level civil court, you can find a copy of your state’s rules of civil procedure online, or at your local law library.
Tip #3: File Your Paperwork
Many people don’t know this, but when you file paperwork with the court, you HAVE to properly serve a copy to your adversary too.
Failing to do so will likely cause the court to simply dismiss your lawsuit or motion, before it even begins. Each jurisdiction has specific rules about providing “proof of service“.
These rules are laid out in the court’s rules and procedures.
Check this out! In a survey of 61 federal judges, they reported that 70% of “pleadings or submissions that are unnecessary, illegible, or cannot be understood”.
Judges are inundated with paperwork as it is. Filing a lengthy lawsuit is a sure way to annoy them. In fact, this is one of the biggest complaints judges have against pro se parties.
Tip #4: Be Respectful!
If you have ever watched videos of people representing themselves in court, you have probably seen some very good examples of exactly what not to do!
Yelling at the judge, repeating the same point over and over again, or droning on about irreverent information, are sure fire ways to lose any case in court.
In my experience, being respectful to others is the best way to go. I have found that judges will not only look upon you favorably, they will even try to point you in the right direction.
Part of being respectful means dressing the part! According to attorney Sasha Shulman, there are three D’s to keep in mind when going to court. Always be: dressed, direct, and diligent.
Tip #5: Control the Evidence
Controlling evidence is essential to PROVING your claims. If you don’t control evidence, both by suppressing harmful evidence, and admitting helpful evidence. You will have a hard time winning your case.
There are a lot of rules for evidence. Learning them all could take years. Fortunately, court cases generally move slow, giving you plenty of time to prepare.
Also, consider consulting with an attorney. Even if you only need legal advice on controlling evidence.
Otherwise, hard, diligent work is the only way to succeed!
Tip #6: Control the Court!
Only you can make your point known, and you can’t appeal a case because of a mistake that you have made.
This, again, is why it is so important to know the rules of the court.
Whether you are objecting to a claim made by your adversary, or you are filing a motion. You will need to know the court’s rules in order to control the court.
Tip #7: Learn More
These are just a few tips to keep in mind when you are representing yourself in court.
You will need to do A LOT more research if you plan to win!
Here are a few more resources to help you on your journey:
- How to Represent Yourself In Court by NOLO
- Everybody’s Guide to Small Claims Court by NOLO
- The Criminal Law Handbook by NOLO
Furthermore, check all of your local court and government resources. Many states have invaluable resources for pro se litigants.
Try This Online Course
One of the best courses I have found on representing yourself in court without a lawyer, is available at WinInCourt.org.
This course is simple and easy to follow, and can help you conduct a winning case on your own.
From serving your paperwork, to drafting winning court cases and motions. WinInCourt.org is the go-to self-help legal course!
Representing Yourself in Court, in Short
It’s true, it may seem unfortunate that most people can not afford a lawyer. But as with all great challenges, innovation is key.
Fortunately, representing yourself in court without a lawyer is not an impossible task!
The more we look into the legal system and understand how to use it as individuals… The more we can prepare ourselves, and our families, to use this amazing, often overlooked tool… the better!
Check out our infographic on how to win in court without a lawyer below. Feel free to share it, just be sure to let them know where you found it!