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You may have landed on this web site because you are considering starting legal proceedings on your own. That can be a daunting prospect. Allow yourself to be inspired by the following passage. It’s from Deborah L. Rhode’s book ‘Access to Justice’ which she published in 2005.
‘Three years in law school and passage of a bar exam are neither necessary nor sufficient to ensure expertise in the areas where non-lawyer services flourish; lay specialists may be better able to provide cost-effective services than lawyers who practice in multiple fields.’
Deborah Rhode is the Ernest W. McFarland Professor of Law at Stanford University. She is also the founding president of the International Association of Legal Ethics, the former president of the Association of American Law Schools and the former founding director of Stanford’s Center on Ethics, among many other things. She is the world’s most frequently cited scholar on legal ethics.
One of the most firmly embedded and widely violated legal principles is ‘equal justice under law’, says Deborah Rode. Her views largely also apply to England & Wales. The cuts to legal aid haven’t made things better.
As a litigant in person, you are certainly not alone. The number of law suits in which at least one of the parties has no legal representation has risen considerably in recent years. The legal field is changing rapidly and self-lawyering is the future, according to the legal profession’s consumer watchdog.
Here are a few resources to get you started:
- The Bar Council has a Guide to Representing Yourself in Court (written in April 2013).
- In November 2011, ‘Access to Justice for Litigants in Person (or self-represented litigants)‘, a 94-page Report and Series of Recommendations to the Lord Chancellor and to the Lord Chief Justice was published. Page 61 contains the following remark:
‘a helpful person standing by can make the difference.’
- ‘A handbook for litigants in person‘ by HHJ Edward Bailey, Editor-in-Chief, HHJ Neil Bidder QC, HHJ Peter Bowers, HHJ Alison Hampton, HHJ David Hodge QC and
HHJ Peter Hughes QC is available as a free download from the judiciary web site.
- You can step to the Personal Support Unit, if there is an office nearby. The PSU has offices in Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester and Newcastle upon Tyne.
- Also available is a review outlining what types of problems LIPs run into and what kind of cases they bring to the courts.
- There is a report on the complaints LIPs submitted to the Bar Standards Board between 1 January 2011 and 31 March 2012. This too uncovers some of the hurdles litigants in person find themselves navigating.
- In addition, there is an article in the Law Gazette that you may want to read.
- Finally, you should definitely read the Legal Ombudsman’s report on “No win no fee” practices, for various reasons. Among other things, it will help you become aware of the financial risks you take as a litigant in person. This is very important.
Before you take someone to court
Do your research and identify the exact legal grounds on which you would base your case. Collect all the evidence you can get to support your case. It will help you determine whether you actually have a case. Because taking a civil wrong to court is usually not about whether you are right or wrong, but about whether you have a case and can explain why.
Going to court is certainly also a matter of following the correct procedures, the rules for when to do what and how. If you can’t determine whether you have a case or not, or are not able to explain it in legal terms, you will likely also have problems with the procedures. Not following the rules can also make you lose a court case. That’s the law.
You should contact the other side and see if you can negotiate a compromise that means neither of you have to go to court. (Professional mediators can help you with the negotiations.) Not having to go to court would save both sides considerable expense, time, and effort and likely also a lot of stress. It’s not just that. Before you can start court proceedings, you are required to seek a solution that leaves the court out of it.
Yes, we may be able to help you in that stage. We are not solicitors or barristers, however. We provide affordable practical, lay legal and moral support.
If you are unable to come to an agreement out of court and decide to become a litigant in person, you will have to take the lead in your court case. Though we may be able to assist you, it is you who will be conducting the litigation – as we are not lawyers and are not allowed to conduct litigation on behalf of others. We will support you around-the-clock, however, if we accept you as a client under one of our Pay-Per-Period arrangements.
We make your time worthwhile.
While you are celebrating your daughter’s birthday, having dinner with your family, or are at your place of work, we can for example be doing research for you. We add peace of mind to your life because we spend time for you.
Would you love to have these starter tips as a handy PDF file? Complete the form below and press the “submit” button. We’ll send the tips right to your mailbox. Current version: 5 March 2015. You can also right-click on the image and select “save link as” to save the file on your computer.
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