Top Ten questions to ask before you hire an Attorney (USA)
Why Represent yourself in Court
Top Ten Reasons
CBC-The National: Representing yourself in Court in Canada
Question: Can you have both a lawyer and represent yourself?
Answer: Depending on the jurisdiction the answer is yes. You can hire a lawyer to advise you through the process.
Should you Defend Yourself in Court
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Representing yourself in Court in the United States of America
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1. The cost of a lawyer is restrictive
Because of the high cost of hiring a lawyer, many are frozen out of the justice system and the only way for them to have a chance at justice is by representing themselves. It is often a choice between self representation or no representation especially if you are facing a default judgement. You can also spend time on legal research and case law which is often the key to success.
Your legal adversaries are often betting that you do not have the financial resources to fight back and therefore you can be leveraged into into capitulating for financial reasons.
2. Having a lawyer or spending money is no guarantee of success
Self Represented or Pro Se litigants, will often have advantages. For instance, no one knows you case better than yourself and lawyers are often taxed for time and you can end up on the short end of the stick because your case does not get the attention it rightfully deserves especially if you have a limited budget.
There are many that believe the more money you spend on legal representation the greater the likelihood of success. This is often far from the case as you will see in some of the examples where clients have be subject to "Bleed them and Plead them" and "Churned and Burned". There is also the issue that no matter how much you pay a lawyer, they may not follow your instruction which can have have dire consequences. Many lawyers believe they have won the moment they are paid, not when you are victorious.
3. You have a greater self interest than a lawyer
Self represented often means you will have more credibility and can argue more effectively before a Judge or a Jury because it is your situation, not the lawyers. Because you have the knowledge, you can think on your feet when cross-examining and challenging a witness. Because it is your case, you bring your passion and motivation.
4. There are strategies available to a Pro Se litigant that are not available to a Lawyer
You cannot be disbarred but you can be sanctioned by the court. There is much leeway given to a Pro Se litigant that is often not given to law trained lawyers. You are also not apart of the legal club which often means there is collusion among lawyers that is not in your best interest. Many States and Provinces provide resources and educational materials for the self-represented. Much of this is economy where the courts are being plugged and slowed by the self-represented who are unable to afford legal representation.
5. Public Defenders, Legal Aid lawyers or your lawyer often spend their time negotiating instead of fighting
It is human nature for many to want to do the least amount of work for their money. Many lawyers do not have the time or will to call witnesses or do research and as such are more negotiators than they are lawyers. Some public defenders have hundreds of cases and cutting plea deals the only way they play. You are able to do as much research as you need without worrying about the clock. You are not worrying about legal secretaries that may not be properly trained and really do not care about your plight. You may also be subject to boiler plate motions and pleadings that are out of date and do not reflect recent precedents.
6. Its your right!
You have the constitutional right to represent yourself and when you do and especially when you are successful, you help open the doors to others who are fearful and intimidated by the system. When you stop fearing the justice system, as you will see, you can joint the ranks of the growing community that have mastered it, rather than have it master you. It is now a tool available to you to use in the future to address injustices and protect you and your family's interests..
7. Often a fight does not justify a lawyer
Often the amount in dispute is less than it would cost to hire a lawyer. A good example is Traffic Court where you are fighting more on principal than the amount of the fine. Therefore, the sensible thing to do is to fight rather than to surrender. Remember, if you don't fight, you can't win.
8. There are many Lawyers who are incompetent, unethical or sloppy
Consistent with any profession, there are lawyers who really care little for the client, abdicate or delegate most of the work to legal assistants and because lawyers are self-regulated, can do things that other professionals cannot do with impunity.
9. It can be fun, empowering and very rewarding
Once you get over the fear and intimidation factor, the experience of fighting and winning is indescribable. It gives you the tools to not to fear the system and how to utilize it on your behalf.
10. There are cases some lawyers will not touch with a ten foot pole
If you need to sue another lawyer, the police, a public official, good luck finding a lawyer. Many communities are small and everyone knows everyone. Also, there is an old saying that you never bite the hand that feeds you and unfortunately, you will see that a lawyers' self interests will usually trump yours every time. Also, for many, taking up a fight is a matter of faith and religious conviction that a lawyer may not share or for which will have little or not empathy and often will have contempt for your cause.
11. There are free educational resources in most jurisdictions
Please check out legal aid, duty counsels, pro-bono (free layers), civil liberties and other groups that can give you assistance and the information you may require to make important legal decisions. Some State and Provincial websites have resources and people to assist self represented lawyers navigate the system.
12 Courthouse Libraries are invaluable
Regardless if you go it alone or hire a law firm. Take the time to know and understand the law and see if it is on your side. Many lawyers are not up on recent precedents and many do not have the time or the budget to research basic case law. Unfortunately, it is not unusual for clients having to point out to their lawyers precedents and strategies the lawyers never knew existed. The law librarians are often extremely knowledgeable and helpful and one of the most powerful tools you have to learn and master the system.
Most successful Self Represented or Pro Se Litigants have retained either active or retired lawyers to advise them. This is becoming more common as many simply do not have the funds to pay for full time legal representation. The legal representatives advise and check the work and the client argues their case.
1. Interview and do your homework. The more lawyers you interview the more you will learn on the various strategies that can be employed. You want a lawyer with a strong reputation and a high rate of wins. If they won't give references, run, don't walk away.
2. You want a lawyer who specializes in your issues and knows the law inside and out; not a jack of all trades
3. Educate yourself. Go to your local courthouse library and know the case law. Do not abdicate your responsibilities to a lawyer. Remember always, many lawyers feel they win when your check clears.
4. Hire a pit bull. You want a lawyer and not a negotiator. You want someone who will force a quick settlement and not look to you as an annuity.
5. Check out all the legal resources and free sources of information to help you make a decision. Many lawyers are rated on websites and on blogs. Do your homework.
6. Be prepared to dismiss a lawyer for ineffective counsel should they refuse to listen to your instructions or take actions you have not authorized without your approval or discussion. This is how many become Pro Se or Self Represented litigants.
7. Check out the Law Society for your jurisdiction. Lawyers govern themselves and are lax at disciplining their members still it is good to understand three things with regard to the societies. The first is search the lawyers to see if they have ever been sanctioned or fined and why. Know their code of conduct to make sure they are treating you in an ethical and proper manner and finally understand the complaint process just in case you may need it.
8. Judges, prosecutors and public defenders are all lawyers. Often a lawyer is lax to to challenge a judge, prosecutor or a fellow lawyer if there is judicial misconduct or any breeches that are prejudicial to your winning. Again, you want a pit bull.
9. It helps if a lawyer is a crusader in your cause. For instance if you have been wrongfully arrested, it is great to get a lawyer who specialized in suing the police and has a winning reputation for doing so and doing it successfully. This can often result in arbitration and a settlement without goring to court.
10. Some lawyers will work on contingency meaning that they they will not charge you in return for a a percentage of any potential settlement. It is always a good question to ask as it could be an indication of whether they believe in your cause in the first place.
11. Lawyers know all the tricks. Is the other side suppressing evidence? Are they playing by the rules? Do you need a motion to compel or a motion for sanctions? Do you recognize prosecutorial misconduct or legal misconduct?
Self Represented or Pro se or Litigant in Person?
Pro se is a Latin phrase meaning "for oneself" or "on one's own behalf". This status is sometimes known as propria persona (abbreviated to "pro per"). In England and Wales the comparable status is that of "litigant in person". In Canada, the common phrase is self-represented.
When, Why and How to Hire a Lawyer
Representing Yourself in Court
See your applicable Jurisdiction for information, resources and videos