Pro Se Legal Representation: How to Represent Yourself
What is pro se legal representation? Pro se is a term used to describe a person who represents themselves in a legal action. The most common reason people choose this option is financial. Another common reason is inability to find an attorney to accept the case.
There are certain rules of court that all parties must follow. Most jurisdictions have multiple courts, and may require specific types of cases be filed in specific courts. Know how many copies of documents will be required, and take one extra set of copies with you for the clerk of courts to “file-stamp” for your records. This copy will prove your filing date and content. There may be a filing fee if you are the one starting the process. It’s best to bring cash, as most courts will not accept personal checks or credit cards.
Proper document formatting and attention to detail is imperative. There are several ways you can learn about content and formatting requirements and rules of court. Some locations have court offices with pro se advocates who can help you. The clerk of courts may have written instructions. You may also obtain information online or at your local library. Pay special attention to deadlines and due dates for filing written responses, as well as service requirements (providing copies to the other side.)
It is vitally important that you dress professionally and behave correctly in court. Remain dignified and courteous no matter what the circumstances are. If your case requires documentation, bring originals and at least two copies of each. Have documents organized so you can easily find them as needed. Never interrupt the judge or the other side; you will be given a chance to speak.
One common situation for representing yourself pro se is Small Claims Court. This court is designed to enable small businesses and individuals to settle disputes within certain monetary limits, usually between three and five thousand dollars.