You may elect to forego the services of an attorney and represent yourself in court, a small claims hearing, or an arbitration hearing. This is a legal option and a personal decision that only you can make. Nevertheless, even if you decide to represent yourself, it may be to your advantage to get preliminary legal advice from an attorney to help you understand the legal issues and make the right decisions about your case. It is also very important for you to understand that Court staff and courthouse employees are not permitted to give you legal advice, make recommendations about your case, or suggest what you should do.
If you do decide to represent yourself, these tips will help you:
- Always keep your overall objective in mind. You are trying to persuade a judge, magistrate, arbitrator, or jury that you are right, and you should act, dress, and speak in a way that helps you with your case.
- When you come to court, you should be clean and neatly groomed. Dress as you wish to be treated - professional to professional. This means clothes that are neat and clean.
- Your actions are as important as your appearance. You should be respectful to everyone in court. This includes the judge, magistrate, arbitrator, court staff, witnesses, and the other party involved in your case.
- Be on time for all court appearances and scheduled appointments. If you are late, your case could be lost before you even begin. The judge, magistrate, or arbitrator could rule against you, and you could even be held in contempt.
- Be prepared to tell the judge, magistrate, or arbitrator at the outset what you want to accomplish during your appearance in court.
- Be prepared to present your side of the case making the best use of your time to speak, talking about the most important things first. You should organize your thoughts before coming to court.
- Bring any documents relating to your case with you. Original copies are preferred, but you may be forced to use duplicate copies if the originals are not available.
- When court is in session and your case is called, you will be allowed to present your case or argument. You should speak directly to the judge, magistrate, or arbitrator. You should not direct your comments to or argue with the other party.
- You should not attempt to communicate with the judicial official who will be hearing your case. The judge, magistrate, or arbitrator is not allowed to speak to you about your case except when your case is being heard and when the other party is there.
In summary, always remember the 4 P's; Professionalism, Punctuality, Politeness, and Preparation. This will go a long way toward helping you to help yourself in court.