Things to Consider Before Representing Yourself in Court

When you think about a possible court case, the first thing you might think about is an attorney. Each year, many people are going to trials for a range of crimes anywhere from criminal actions to small civil claims. Self-representation is becoming more and more of a common thing in this day and age but when should you consider a lawyer? What are the risks of representing yourself in your specific court case?

In what cases is an attorney almost absolutely necessary?

Self-representation is usually a matter used only for small civil trials rather than criminal court cases or the like. If you choose to represent yourself in your court hearing, then a lawyer should at least be considered for some amount of the work. A lawyer can be a very beneficial consultant to have on your side to answer any and all questions and offer advice on the specific strategies you can take. Cases ranging anywhere from personal injury to contractual disputes can range significantly and you may feel at a loss at times not having anybody to answer your questions.

Lawyers know a lot about the how-tos when it comes to the court system. Most judges will be quite lenient toward a person who chooses to represent themselves and will likely just correct you if you do something or say something wrong. However, speaking to a lawyer beforehand can give you the knowledge to avoid these corrections happening in the first place. (1)

In New Jersey, there are options for you if you are planning on not hiring a lawyer just because of financial strain. You may contact the legal services program in your country to see if you qualify for free, fully-paid legal services, which can be found in your local yellow pages under “Legal Aid” or “Legal Services.” If you don’t qualify for said services but need help locating an attorney after all, you can contact the bar association in your country. They may have a Lawyer Referral Service to help you with your needs – and in many cases, there will be lawyers who are willing to handle your case and sometimes consult with you at a reduced fee. (2)

How do I deal with court paperwork and the actual trial?

When you make the decision to self-represent, you must consider what you need to do with the court clerk. This applies to familiarizing yourself with the local public law library and finding out more about forms and instructions to follow when filing your lawsuit. Self-help books can even become a great source at times to help you file and conduct a lawsuit.

When it comes to the actual trial, each side will make an opening statement and give an overview of the case they intend to prove. The Plaintiff will generally then put on their case and present witnesses. Afterwards, the Defense is allowed to cross-examine the witness. It goes on from there until closing arguments are made, which summarize the version of the events that took place from both sides and explain to the judge or jury why they should prevail in the case. It sounds simple, but there is a lot that goes into all of this. This is why self-representation can be very difficult and it is not always a good idea to do it without a lawyer on your side. (1)

At Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi P.C., we can work with you on your case. No case is too challenging and no case is too small. We look at all sides and consider your options for a best fit in how you should proceed with your case. Schedule a free consultation to speak with us today!