10 reasons you shouldn’t represent yourself in an Illinois legal matter

10 reasons you shouldn’t represent yourself in an Illinois legal matter

If you are hesitant to hire an attorney and are thinking about representing yourself, then this list is for you. We’ll admit that there are some situations in which you don’t need a lawyer, and you can totally handle it on your own. But then there are situations in which you’re just asking for trouble if you think you can do it alone. Here are the reasons why we say this…


  1. You might ruin your case. Everyone makes mistakes. Your lawyer might even make a mistake. But you are much more likely to make a mistake on a legal matter and it could mean that your case gets dismissed. If you miss a deadline or fail to file something that is required, it could be over.
  2. You are more likely to lose. Your chances are better with an experienced attorney. There’s an art to presenting a case to a judge or negotiating with the other side. We get that you are the expert on your facts, but get help when it comes to strategy and knowing how to play the game. This is especially true if you are headed to court.
  3. It could actually cost you more. If you are considering representing yourself, it is probably because you want to avoid legal fees. One thing most people don’t realize is that a case is generally worth more if you have a lawyer. We’ve seen countless cases where having a lawyer ends up paying for itself. And then there is the cost of losing … if you miss a deadline or fail to properly present your case, then you could end up with a judgment against you.
  4. You are giving the other attorney a big advantage. They know what they are doing (most likely), and they aren’t going to cut you any slack if you don’t. The other side’s attorney is going to see your case as an easy win, and they might be right.
  5. There are unwritten rules. Every courtroom has some unwritten customs. They all work a little differently, and it’s not something that’s necessarily written down. Unlike reading the law and rules of court, you get to know the customs simply by spending a lot of time in the courthouse on cases. Not knowing how it works can work against you.
  6. Every judge is unique. One way lawyers prepare for a case in court is to think about who the judge is. That judge’s preferences, personality and quirks are important. An experienced attorney who has appeared before that judge before will know these things, and you will not.
  7. You might irritate the judge. By not knowing how everything works, you might take up more of the court’s time. The last thing you want to do is get on the judge’s nerves. You have the right to represent yourself and of course the judge can’t rule against you because you chose to represent yourself, but this is about giving yourself every advantage possible.
  8. Don’t underestimate the time and stress. It’s never as easy as you think it’s going to be. It’s not necessarily easier for lawyers – there are always additional steps and hurdles in a case – but an experienced lawyer can handle it in stride. They’ve seen it before. Don’t underestimate the amount of time it will take you to make sure every part of your case is done correctly.
  9. It’s not like television. It’s not that fun. You wait around a lot. And when it’s your turn, you don’t always get to tell your entire story like you want to. Things move slowly and inefficiently and if you’re not used to it, it can be really frustrating.
  10. You might regret it. I hear from people all the time who tried to handle their case on their own and call because they need help fixing what they did. Unfortunately for some, it’s too late and there’s nothing I can do. These people are smart, successful individuals. It’s not that they – or you – aren’t capable of understanding the law. It’s just that you aren’t immersed in it all day every day. And that is the advantage that you will find in a lawyer.

If you are still confident that you can represent yourself, then good luck to you. Do your research. Not just on the law, but on the judge and the courtroom, too. Go sit in on some cases. If you know any lawyers, get some advice if you can. You’re going to need it.

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