Picture this: You are watching a crime drama on television and the accused is standing before a judge. The accused criminal is absolutely insistent on representing themselves in court. The judge strongly advises the person that this is a terrible idea.
Most of us have seen those episodes and, if not, have at least heard that it is never a good idea to represent yourself in a criminal trial. While it is rarely a good idea to put your faith in television shows, in this case you would be right to do so. It is rarely, if ever, a wise move to represent yourself when you are accused of a crime.
What about a civil trial? You don’t stand any chance of going to jail or prison and, if we are being honest, you simply can’t afford an attorney. The good news is that representing yourself in small claims court or through a civil trial is something you can do effectively. Here are questions that we are often asked when people are considering representing themselves in these types of cases.
1. Can I hire a part-time lawyer?
Yes. The answer to the question posed is always ‘yes,’ and hiring a lawyer to help you at least part-time is an excellent idea. An attorney can act as a consultant, giving you advice on strategy. You will have to pay an attorney to do this, but you won’t be paying the costs associated with having an attorney appear in court with you.
2. Do I file in local, state or federal court?
If you are considering representing yourself, it is doubtful that you will be appearing in federal court. Small claims courts tend to be county-wide or local and state courts will hear cases of greater monetary value. The clerk of courts for either jurisdiction will be able to tell you which court will be able to tell you if their court is the proper one for you to file in.
3. What about all of the paperwork?
There is no doubt that the paperwork involved in a legal proceeding can be complicated. The clerk of courts can provide you with the paperwork you need, but they can only provide limited information as to how you will fill it out. A law library or an attorney can assist you with the filling out of the paperwork.
4. What happens after I file?
Once you have filed your lawsuit, you are in a holding pattern. The defendant will be given time to provide an answer, and you will be schedule for any one of a variety of hearings or conferences. Again, the clerk of courts will be your best source of information if you are wondering what happens next.
5. How do I act in court?
The judge knows that you aren’t an attorney, so you don’t need to worry about using legalese. You do, however, need to act professional and respectfully. It is always a good idea to be well prepared in order to keep your case flowing smoothly. Don’t expect a judge, no matter how good-natured, to appreciate it if you waste their time.
Representing yourself is not difficult in a civil matter but things must still be done properly. If you need the assistance of a personal injury attorney in North Carolina, please reach out to our office today. We will provide you with a free consultation and answer the questions you have. Call now.