Can you defend yourself in court? The obvious answer is yes, you can defend yourself— the law of our country allow anyone to appear on their own behalf (i.e., pro se). The real question is should you? The answer is unequivocally NO, especially if you ask anyone in the legal profession.
There are three main reasons to seek legal representation rather than go it alone. Successfully defending yourself will require a great deal of knowledge of all aspects of the law. Can you honestly say you have the knowledge needed to defend yourself in an adversarial proceeding? In addition to knowledge, skilled representation requires experience. Lawyers spend a great deal of time learning the intricacies of procedure and courtroom etiquette. Without an in depth understanding of how you are expected to present your case you are setting yourself up for failure. Finally, self-representation may not be the cost-effective strategy you envision, if things do not go according to plan you could be looking at substantially higher fees if you have to hire a lawyer to remedy a situation made worse by your lack of knowledge or inexperience.
You lack the knowledge to represent yourself.
Understanding the law is complicated. Laws not only vary state by state, and statutes are anything but clear on their face. Even the most experienced attorneys spend much of their time researching case law and journals in order to apply the correct interpretation of the law to their cases. Once you grasp the proper interpretation of the law, you then have to navigate the courtroom. This means understanding procedures that govern not just the state, county and even the individual judge’s specific rules and regulations. Yes, you have the ability to walk into a courtroom and defend yourself, but it doesn’t mean you are going to have a successful outcome.
Would you hire a professional to cut and color your hair? fix a plumbing or electrical issue in your home? perform a surgery on you or your pets? The answer is likely yes.
The answer should be yes when it comes prioritizing legal representation. If you want the best outcome possible in your case, you need an experienced attorney advocating for you.
You lack experience with the rules of procedure and courtroom etiquette.
A few weeks ago, our one of our seasoned attorney’s at the Kendrick Law Group met with a woman who had represented herself in a family law matter. This woman believed since she “knew” the law she could proceed with her case unrepresented. Like most matters, her case was complicated. This woman felt knew her case better than anyone, which was likely true, she also believed that no one would advocate on her behalf as fervently as she would. Unfortunately, she was meeting with our attorney because she lost her case as a pro se litigant. She is determined to prevail and after reflecting on her experience and realizing she needs experienced family law counsel on her side has retained the Kendrick Law Group.
You certainly may know the facts of your case better than anyone, attorneys included, but facts are only one part of a court case. You must be you familiar with the law and legal arguments. If not familiar with the law, rules of procedure, and courtroom etiquette, you are simply not the best advocate for your legal position. You likely have not appeared in court before, if you have appeared, you likely have not appeared with an adversarial attorney on the opposing side. Your opposing counsel has the skillset, training, and knowledge you lack- an obvious advantage from inception. The most important factor to consider is this – you have not argued motions, interviewed witnesses, or presented opening and closing arguments. You do not know the rules of evidence, what you are allowed to bring into evidence, when to make proper objections, or even how to make such objections. These examples are just part of an extensive list of ways you are disadvantaged from the start without experienced representation.
It is critical you hire an attorney to present your case rather than handling it pro se. Attorneys attend 3 years of law school on top of passing a state bar exam. These grueling exams test their knowledge on a wide array of legal subjects. Passing these exams and maintaining licensure through ongoing educational requirements ensures they are well trained in handling your legal matters. Hiring an attorney gives you a much higher chance of a successful outcome than navigating the murky legal and procedural waters on your own.
It is not cost effective to defend your case pro se.
Trying to defend your case without an attorney, will likely lead to mistakes. This mistakes may be minor, but even minor mistakes can be costly. Some mistakes can alter the outcome of case completely. In the event of a major error your costs could skyrocket and your case irreparable. For example, if you fail to answer a complaint that was filed against you, you could be defaulted, and could have to pay attorney’s fees and costs for the opposing side in addition to whatever amount is listed in the final judgment. You could even risk having your case dismissed with prejudice. In order to get the final judgment, set aside or remedy any other deficiencies, you have no choice but to hire an attorney. At that point you must pay for that attorney to get you out of the current mess and then defend once the issues are resolved.
Had you retained representation from the start, you would know that your interests were represented and your case would be defended competently and professional. You can almost guarantee a swift resolution to your legal troubles when the knowledge and experience of a trained professional are engaged.
If you have a legal issue, don’t risk defending yourself. Call an experienced attorney for representation to help you resolve your legal matter.