Should you go to Court without a lawyer? | Undertaking the Trial Alone

At first, it might seem like a great idea to represent yourself in court. How hard could it be? Nobody knows your case better than you; the intricate details are your firsthand knowledge. And maybe you’ve even been told that you are quite convincing at making arguments!

There are lots of examples of people without legal training doing a reasonable job in front of a magistrate or a judge. However, there are a number of reasons why you might consider hiring a lawyer, and ideally a good one, before tackling the challenge of representing yourself.


Emotional investment

Legal matters are themselves emotional life events. If you’ve been through a business breakdown, a divorce, or in a car accident, you know how overwhelming these events can be. It is difficult to detach and realistically approach your situation from a clear perspective. A good lawyer will tell you what you need to hear, which is unfortunately not always the same thing as what you what you want to hear.

When representing oneself in court, it is easy to become emotionally involved in your case, which could cloud judgment and make it difficult to present a strong argument. Emotions are not evidence; and they can often work against you, it is important to remember that.


Adverse bias

In the words of the Honourable Justice Faulks “Most judges tend to couple the word self-represented litigant with an expletive. It is customary to regard them as difficult, time-consuming, unreasonable, and ignorant of processes of the law.”

In Kenny v Ritter, and in a great number of other matters, the Court recognises a need to provide a self-represented litigant with some assistance. However, this is taxing on a judge’s energy levels, and patience. Underlying this is also a conflict between the principle of fairness; the judge’s desire to help the solo litigant while maintaining the principle of impartiality. It is a difficult balance that by representing yourself, you are asking the court to undertake.


Lack of legal expertise

Lawyering requires a thorough understanding of substantive laws, procedures, and rules of evidence. Without legal training, it is difficult to know what evidence to present, what arguments to make, and how to make them successfully. The legal system is intricate and complex, even for those of us equipped with a law degree! Within one matter there could be multiple different approaches that a lawyer might choose to pursue, and each could lead to very different outcomes. Things can turn quickly in a court room, and you want a sharp, experienced perspective on your side.


Time and money

Preparing for litigation demands time and effort. Representing oneself requires extensive research, document preparation, and witness preparation, all of which can be time-consuming and overwhelming. If you already have a fulltime job and/or a family, the work required to prepare your case could quickly reach a tipping point where you might simply run out of time.

Often a person will represent themselves due to how much money a lawyer will cost. This concern is very valid. Legal costs can, sometimes, be disproportionate to the nature of the proceedings before the Court.

Most law firms, including Chamberlains, have payment options that can help ease the financial burden of litigation. And if you go to court on your own, and you lose, you might also face a costs order being made against where no only will you could also have to pay the other side’s legal costs (or some of them) even if you did not incur any yourself.

Can you go to court on your own behalf and represent yourself? Absolutely.

Should you think twice before you do so? Absolutely.


At Chamberlains, our expert disputes team can assist you with all stages of litigation.

Contact our Corporate & Commercial and Litigation & Dispute Resolution Teams today to schedule a chat with our experienced legal practioners.

We’re with you.


*This article was prepared with the assistance of Christie Preston*


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