Frequently Asked Questions - Reasons Why You Should Not Represent Yourself in Court
Attorneys have spent many many years in school learning the law and how to effectively represent their clients in a court of law. They have countless hours of training and learning from more experienced attorneys. They are required to spend so much time learning and training because the law is extremely complex and what may sound pretty straight forward to the average person may in fact be much more complicated.
If you are thinking of representing yourself in a court of law, you are going to have to do a massive amount of research on not only your type of lawsuit but also the laws that go along with it. Many laws have bi-laws which can be where the complexity comes into play. Not only do you have to make sure you are extremely knowledgeable about your lawsuit, you also need to make sure you know how to effectively argue your case in front of a judge and jury.
Also in a lawsuit, there are deadlines that need to be adhered to. If you miss a deadline, there are consequences. One of those consequences could mean the judge may dismiss your case without hearing your side. If this happens, either you have forfeited your right to refile the claim or you must refile your claim within a certain time frame or you will forever be bared. If you must refile your claim, this could mean having to again pay for court costs which add up very quickly during a lawsuit.
If you decide representing yourself in court is the best way to go, most court houses have a legal aid department that could help you along the way. Or you could consult with an attorney who could give you advise and direction. Usually, attorneys charge anywhere from $50-$500 for a consultation. If you go this route, it’s always best to consult with an attorney who specializes in the field pertaining to your lawsuit.
If you are ready to file your lawsuit with the clerk of courts, you will have to pay the fee associated with that type of lawsuit. There is also a lot of paperwork that goes into filing a lawsuit. If you do not have all of the appropriate paperwork at the time of filing, the clerk will not be able to process your claim until you have completed all of the required paperwork. Only when everything is received in its entirety will the clerk process your filing and give you a case number. This can be a major headache for a lot of people as just gathering this paperwork takes time and research to determine what is needed. And that’s only the simple part of a lawsuit.
Most counties have a public law library, usually situated in or around the courthouse. There are many legal books and computers that you can use, free of charge, to research your claim. This again takes several hours and if you work during the day, it can be very difficult to accomplish this. If you hire an attorney, the disadvantage is having to pay the attorney for their time and effort; however, they take care of all of the paperwork for you and you don’t have to spend countless hours researching your case. Attorneys have spent a good majority of their life at law school and practicing law and know the law inside and out. They are very easily able to apply this knowledge to your case which will mean less stress for you trying to take care of everything on your own. Your attorney will explain the steps to you and how they plan to proceed with your lawsuit. They will consult with you and make sure you are fully informed on how they plan to move forward with your case.
Once you have filed your lawsuit with the clerk of courts, you must familiarize yourself with the steps. This step is called the discovery phase. You file your case and the other party knows as the defendant, will have a certain amount of days to answer your complaint. They will then have an opportunity to either file a counter-suit or respond accordingly. This is where you must be very familiarized with the process of how a lawsuit works because it is crucial that you know how to respond to any forms filed by the defendant or know how to proceed if the defendant does not answer the complaint at all. You will also need to be prepared to pay service fees out of your own pocket. You will have to pay either the police department or a certified process server to deliver certain documents to the defendant. You have to keep in mind that you have to be able to prove to the court that you made every legal attempt to serve the defendant. An attorney’s office will have a team of process serves at their disposal to take care of this step for you if you retain an attorney. If you are unable to serve the defendant in a given amount of time, you run the risk of the judge dismissing your case. Your attorney will be able to pay someone to do whatever it takes and use sophisticated technology to locate the defendant. Some attorneys have special software or ways to legally search addresses and find defendants when the average person is unable to.
Defending yourself in a court room in front of a judge and jury can be very overwhelming. There may be language you don’t understand or forms given to you that you aren’t sure how to fill out. If this happens, you will look very unorganized or unprofessional in front of a jury which can only hurt your case. It is always best to leave lawsuits and legal cases up to the professionals. If you are unable to pay for an attorney, some attorneys work pro bono, which means they will work on your case for you without being paid. Lawsuits and the court process are complex and confusing which is why attorneys spend countless hours researching and learning new laws and how to effectively argue their case. If you can afford to, it’s always in your best interest to hire a professional that knows what they are doing and know how to win your case for you with as little stress placed on you as possible.