Represent Yourself in Court

In criminal cases, if you cannot afford a lawyer, the court may appoint one for you. In some civil cases, you may not have the right to an appointed lawyer, so you may need to represent yourself. Some individuals choose to represent themselves because they feel like they can handle the case on their own. However, just because you can represent yourself, doesn't always mean you should. The following are some resources to help you determine if you should hire a lawyer and assist you in self-representation.

You may need a lawyer if:

  • You have a case that is, or may become complicated
  • You want legal advice
  • You want to discuss strategies for your case like where to file, what to file, and other decisions
  • You want a confidential lawyer-client relationship
  • You are worried that the other side might not be fair and want a lawyer's expertise
  • You are going to have a jury trial, as there are complicated decisions to make regarding choosing the jury and how to present to the jury effectively
  • You are too emotionally close to the case and have a hard time seeing things objectively
* Find resources or information on lawyers

You may not need a lawyer if:

  • Your case is straightforward and there is no opposing side, like in a petition to change your name, or if you are in agreement with the other side, like a guardianship that everyone has agreed upon
  • You understand your options and can make informed choices about your case
  • You are willing to learn and understand the laws, rules and procedures that apply to your case
  • You can spend the time to prepare for your case
  • You can follow written instructions and work on your own

Guidelines for Communicating with the Court:

  • Neither the Clerk’s office nor the Judge can provide you with legal advice
  • Rules prohibit the Judge from talking to you about your case outside of the court proceedings. This is sometimes called “ex parte communication.” You cannot simply “talk to the Judge” (on the phone, in person or via email) and have a private conservation with them. You must file a Motion, schedule a hearing and provide the other party with notice and opportunity to be heard before the Judge as well.