Ten Reasons Not to Represent Yourself

Ten Reasons Not to Represent Yourself


No one wants to spend money on a lawyer if they don’t have to.  I tell people all of the time when they can handle a legal matter themselves like a minor speeding ticket.  But there are many times that if you don’t hire someone you are bound to get destroyed in court.  Here are ten reasons why it usually makes sense to hire an attorney.

1. The other attorney isn’t going to cut you any slack. They’ll probably think it’s going to be an easy case to win because you don’t have an attorney, and they might be right.

2. You will make mistakes. An attorney can make a mistake, too, but your chances are higher. In the worst case scenario, you might do something that gets your case dismissed, without a chance to try again. This can happen by simply missing a deadline.

3. You may not end up saving any money in the long run. The cost of legal fees is probably the main reason people consider being their own attorney, but if you fail to represent yourself well, you can lose your case. You can end up with a judgment against you that could be very costly. Of course, you can lose even if you do have an attorney, but ...

4. You are more likely to lose. In my experience, your chances are better with an experienced attorney. You might know the facts of your case better than anyone, but an attorney knows how to present them to the judge. Not everything is relevant, and not every piece of evidence is admissible. An experienced attorney has developed a strategy based on past cases.  Many people don’t hire a lawyer because they think they’ll pocket more if they are suing.  That almost never happens.  In one case we talk a lot about in our office, a family tried to sue a doctor for clear cut wrongful death that was probably worth in the seven figures.  The family sued on their own, naming themselves as the plaintiffs instead of the estate which would have been proper.  The case got thrown out and since so much time had passed, it could not be re-filed.

5. You don’t know the customs. You can research the law and the rules of court, but some things are learned by simply spending a lot of time in the courthouse.  The Judges by law have to hold you to the same standard as a lawyer, even if this means tossing out your case because it was filed wrong.

6. It’s not as fun as it looks on TV. It’s really not. There’s a lot of waiting around. There are a lot of rules. You don’t always get to tell your whole story. It can be really frustrating.

7. You will suffer more stress. Let an attorney be stressed out for you. It’s tough enough going through a divorce, or suffering an injury or bringing a case against your employer. Don’t take on the stress of legal research, drafting documents and making court appearances on top of all that.

8. You might regret it. I hear from a lot of people who tried to represent themselves the first time around and need an attorney to help them fix things. Sometimes, it’s too late. It’s not that you aren’t smart or capable. And it’s not because you didn’t go to law school. It’s that you don’t do this day in and day out.

9. You don’t know the judge. Knowing a judge’s preferences and tendencies can give you an advantage in the courtroom. An experienced attorney who has appeared before the judge in your case is going to have some invaluable knowledge. An experienced attorney also has the ability to talk to colleagues about different judges and how they handle the cases on their dockets.

10. You might annoy the judge. When someone represents themselves, it can take more time. The judge might have to tell you the rules, or what to do next, or explain what’s going on, and that is going to be annoying. The last thing you want to do is get on the judge’s bad side.

If you’ve read all ten reasons and still think you should represent yourself, good luck. I’d take some time and go to the courthouse if you can. Sit in on some cases and observe what goes on. Talk to some attorneys and get some tips. And if it doesn’t go as planned, don’t say I didn’t warn you.



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  • Amen brother.

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