Can I Represent Myself in Court?

Absolutely.  There is no rule nor law that says you need to have a lawyer represent you.  (Unless you are a Corporation, but we can discuss that later on).  But a good lawyer, and a trusted advisor, will tell you when you really should have a lawyer.  There are plenty of times when we tell our clients not to worry, they can handle the matter on their own.  But there are certainly even more times when we tell our clients that this is an area they are not equipped to deal with and it is time to hire an attorney.

Here are a couple of examples.  You are a landlord for a residential apartment unit and the tenant stopped paying rent.  You decide to go to your local courthouse and file a complaint to have the tenant evicted.  So, you fill out the paperwork properly, and get a notice from the Court when to be there for the Trial in about a month.  You show up, but the Tenant does not, and you have the Tenant evicted.  Great.  BUT, that could have gone a very different way.  Let’s say you do get that Court date and the Tenant does show up.  Not only does she show up, but she has a laundry list of complaints to tell the Judge about the premises and your failure to properly notice her of the eviction.  The Judge hears her complaints and dismissed your Complaint.  So, now you have to file the Complaint all over again, hope that you do it properly this time (even though you have no idea what you did wrong the first time!) and go back to Court for another day a month away.  So, you have taken two days off of work and now have a Tenant who is not going to pay you rent for yet another month.

A lawyer you confide in will be honest with you in this situation and ask you before you are ready to file the complaint.  What is the Tenant like?  Have you dealt with her?  Is she simply having a tough time paying the rent and will be agreeable to moving out with a push from the Court?  Or, is she a very difficult person who has threatened to counter sue you?  This is when you need a lawyer – when the difficult situation arises.  Having a lawyer with the difficult Tenant above would have saved you money in the long run.  You could have gone to work both days and not had any of the aggravation or time wasted.