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Heather Hui-Litwin

Founder, Litigation Help

The biggest challenge in being a self-represented person is that they often do not have enough knowledge about the law to present legal arguments, or understand the procedures involved to navigate the system. Many people assume that if the facts are such that it's obvious they must win. Many people do not understand the difference between legal issues and disputes understood in common sense. In addition, there are numerous procedural hurdles. There are many deadlines for many steps in litigation. There are also many procedural rules that must be obeyed. As an example, expert reports must be served and filed ahead of time, or the expert may not be allowed to testify. If a self-represented litigant did not realize this and did not comply with the rule, they may not be allowed to show important evidence from the expert report at trial, and may lose the case.

It is also disadvantageous to a self-represented person when dealing with opposing counsel before the trial, as they could be out-maneuvered. An experienced lawyer handles cases strategically. It's a bit like playing chess. Even if you know how the chess pieces move, playing the game against a master is hard to do! 

In addition, another risk in self-representation is that as a litigant, one is often so emotionally involved in their case that it is difficult for them to be objective. In such a state, it is very tempting to see the situation in black and white, right and wrong. It is very difficult for a litigant to see different sides to the situation. 

I should add that many self-represented litigants have the impression that the judge did not want to listen to them. However, other self-represented litigants have also told me that they felt the judge was quite sympathetic. My suggestion is to look for a limited scope retainer or unbundled services lawyer to help you with your case, and always be civil and courteous, to the court, and to your opponent. 

For unbundled service lawyers, visit Self-Rep Navigators, For family litigation, see Family Law Limited Scope Services

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Answered: 8 months ago