Many people think it's necessary to hire a lawyer to represent them in court but this is not so. You can present your own case and save yourself the expense of a lawyer's fee. You know the details of the related events intimately and may be able to argue your case better than a lawyer who is primarily working with secondhand information. It is called “Pro se” when you represent yourself in court.
Seek the advice of a legal counsel. A lawyer can tell you your chances of winning the case based on your evidence. He can also provide in-depth advice on how to present your case and what to avoid. According to the law website NOLO.com, hiring a lawyer for consultations costs about 10 percent to 20 percent of what she would charge to represent you.
Choose the appropriate court. If the compensation you are seeking is less than $5,000, you can file your case in a small claims court. Small claims courts simplify the procedure so that plaintiffs and defendants can represent themselves easily. The maximum amount allowed in a small claims court varies by state. If the amount is greater than what the small claims courts allow in your state then you must file in a limited jurisdiction court or Superior Court. If you file in the wrong court, the judge may dismiss your case.
File your case in a timely manner. According to Roderic Duncan in “Win Your Lawsuit: A Judge’s Guide to Representing Yourself in California Superior Court,” courts do not hear old cases. There are laws called “statutes of limitations” that set the time frame that parties can bring a case to court. These statutes vary according to the type of case. If the statute of limitations for your case has expired, you cannot present your case.
Gather supporting evidence for your case. Although you will be given a chance to talk about the events of the case, judges base their decisions on facts and must see evidence of these facts. Your evidence must be convincing and admissible and you must be able to prove it. Examples of acceptable evidence include contracts, phone records and pictures. The more relevant supporting evidence you can provide, the better.
Call a witness. This can be someone who witnessed the incident or a professional who is an expert on an aspect of your case.
Present your case in a calm, clear and logical manner. Start at the beginning of the occurrence and proceed with facts in a chronological manner until you come to the end. Do not give unnecessary details.
Follow acceptable court etiquette. Address the judge as “Your honor,” and do not address the defendant.
- NOLO: Represent yourself in court FAQ: Can I learn everything I need to know to represent myself in court?
- “Win Your Lawsuit: A Judge’s Guide to Representing Yourself in California Superior Court”; Roderic Duncan; NOLO, 2005
- US Supreme Court image by dwight9592 from Fotolia.com