What is a Self-represented Litigant?
If hiring a lawyer seems too costly, you are able to act for yourself. Read more about what being a self-represented litigant means in this article.
Although most people associate legal representation with lawyers and barristers, it is not unlawful for someone to act for themselves. Self-represented litigants are people who represent themselves in the course of legal proceedings. Whether it is the originating process, or somewhere else along the way, there are times where representing yourself is both possible and acceptable. In this article, we’ll explain what it means to be a self-represented litigant but also discuss why it’s usually in your best interests to consult with a professional lawyer before doing this.
Litigation describes proceedings between two opposing parties which serve to eventually enforce or defend a legal right or obligation. It is generally settled by agreement between the parties, but may also be heard and decided by a jury or judge in court. The process of litigation can begin the moment a person decides to formally enforce or defend their legal rights. This may involve initiating the process through sending a letter of demand, arbitration, and pre-court negotiation. It is important to note that self-represented litigants are not merely confined to the courtroom.
Types of self-represented litigants
There are a few different ways in which you can represent yourself:
- Firstly, as a ‘direct’ self-represented litigant, where the person assumes all the responsibilities and tasks required in the legal process
- Secondly, as an ‘unbundled’ self-represented litigant (this is where the litigant is on record, but has sought advice on limited aspects of law or procedure, or a stage of the case)
- Lastly, as a litigant who has directly briefed barrister
Adam is in legal proceedings with his former wife concerning who will receive primary care of the children. He cannot afford to pay thousands of dollars in legal fees so has decided to represent himself. Adam consults his friend who is a lawyer on serious matters. Adam is an ‘unbundled’ self-represented litigant.
Going to Court
Going to court can be a daunting affair. It is generally a last resort. However, there are some things which can help the process:
- Firstly, make sure you attend your court mention
- Secondly, locate your courtroom prior and be on time
- Lastly, come prepared with all necessary documents
Additionally, some courts like the Supreme Court or High Court will require a higher right of audience. What this means is that for some matters, only barristers or particular solicitors will be able to plead a case before a judge.
The Justice NSW website contains more information on appearing in court.
Whilst it is possible for you to represent yourself in Court, you should consult with a litigation lawyer if you are uncertain about anything. You can also minimise your costs by hiring a fixed-fee lawyer, meaning that you’ll know what you’re paying upfront and your costs won’t escalate.
Paul is an intern at Lawpath, and is currently studying a combined Arts/Laws degree with a major in criminology at Macquarie University. Paul has an interest in legal tech, which complements his broader interest in cyber crime/security and the way in which it is changing the world.