Are you facing a seemingly uncomplicated civil lawsuit? If so, you might be tempted to save a little money and work pro se, or represent yourself in court. Unfortunately, life in the courtroom can be a lot different than things appear on your favorite legal docudrama. Here are two reasons not to represent yourself in court, and how an attorney can help:
1: Representing Yourself Can Take A Lot of Time
If you are an intelligent, proactive person, you might assume you can get up to speed by checking out a few legal references from your local library. After all, why hire an attorney when you are capable of reading legal briefs? Unfortunately, acting as your own lawyer can take a lot of time.
In addition to learning the basic legal process and the laws involved in your case, you might also need to brush up on recent judgments and your local jurisdiction's interpretation of the law. If spending hours in the library isn't taxing enough, you might also find yourself trying to scrape together documentation and evidence.
In fact, according to law professor Julie Macfarlane, some self-litigants have had to quit their jobs in order to find the time to represent themselves. Macfarlane also states that the process can become so overwhelming for people that it induces emotional trauma. To save yourself a boatload of time and emotional energy, work with a trained attorney instead. After you explain your side of the story, your lawyer will go to work for you and help you to navigate the courtroom.
2: The Court Won't Slow Down For You
What do you think will happen in court if you don't understand a motion? Although most people assume that the court will slow down to explain legalese, the fact of the matter is that when you work pro se, you are treated just like any other lawyer. Unfortunately, if you miss an important statement or forget to file a motion of your own, it could drastically impact your case.
Some judges can even become impatient with people who decide to represent themselves. For example, Judge Carol Berkman told Robert Camarano, who was representing himself in a murder trial, that his speeches were "stupid" and that he didn't know how to offer things into evidence.
To avoid frustrating setbacks and embarrassing experiences, think twice about representing yourself in court. While a lawyer who is familiar with the courtroom might be able to breeze through briefs and say the right things, you might find yourself tripping over your own words.
By working with a legal professional, you can save yourself a lot of time and frustration, without compromising your case.