The Kansas City Star today had an article about the perils of self-representation. The article can be found here:
I thought this would be a good time to offer my thoughts on this. Whether you are dealing with a civil, bankruptcy, or criminal case, representing yourself is never a good idea. From working in the courts and in the legal profession for 15 years, I can tell you with certainty that this should never be done. Why? Let me count the ways.
1. You don’t know what you don’t know. Some things simply are not do-it-yourself jobs. The problem with legal issues is that you may think you know the whole picture. Unless you handle many legal cases as an attorney over many years, you simply do not have the perspective to anticipate all the potential pitfalls, implications, and consequences of things that may be triggered by actions now. Nothing is as simple as it appears.
2. Any “pro se” litigant by law is held to the exact same standard as an attorney. Don’t expect the judge or court personnel to hand-hold you through your legal problems. That is not their job. Judges and court personnel quickly lose patience with people representing themselves. Perception is very important in law and in life. And floundering about in court representing yourself is unlikely to win you any points with the judge. Just the opposite, in fact.
3. You need an attorney not just to handle your case, but you’ll need him or her to talk to during and after the case. Issues and problems can come up even years after a case has been completed that will need counsel and guidance. Having a professional to talk to who knows your case and your situation is a tremendous advantage.
Bottom line: hiring an attorney is the best decision you can make when faced with any legal problem of any sort, whether it’s bankruptcy, criminal defense, or any other legal issue. Do not be fooled by the proliferation of “do-it-yourself” talk and salesmen who want you to buy their books and tapes. You may think you’re saving money, but you are not. In the long run, the pitfalls and mistakes that are made end up being very costly. We’ve seen this first hand, over, and over again.
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