We’ve all had this thought before: I can do that myself, so why pay somebody else to do it for me? For those familiar with Pinterest, this is the age of doing-it-yourself. Representation in a legal matter should not be a DIY experience. Despite what you may think you know, it’s always better to hire a trained and experienced professional. For purposes of clarification, this article is talking about representation in civil cases.
Pro se is a Latin term that translates to “on one’s own behalf”. Pro se legal representation means advocating on your own behalf before a court, rather than being represented by an attorney. Why would you want to represent yourself? Well, expense is often the leading factor when people choose to respond to or file lawsuits without the aid of an attorney.
The major downside to pro se representation is that you are very likely not getting the best outcome in your case. This can be because you simply don’t know how to research legal precedent, to make legal arguments, or because you failed to respond to discovery requests.
Consider this concrete example – a common tactic used by attorneys facing pro se litigants in civil cases is to send them Requests for Admission during discovery. These Requests ask you to admit or deny facts about your case. If you fail to answer these requests, they are considered admitted under Rule 36 of the North Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure.
Many pro se litigants lose at this stage of the lawsuit because they fail to answer these Requests or because they are answered improperly. By doing so, you’re admitting to anything, and likely everything, the opposing party argues in their favor. All that’s left to do for opposing counsel is to move for summary judgment, and the case is over.
Now, instead of getting a fair result from this case, you’ve lost and are stuck with the outcome, barring any rights to appeal. Think about the value of hiring an attorney in this situation. A good attorney could have advocated for you, while closely following the rules of civil procedure and making sound arguments. Even if you lose your case, your attorney probably saved you hundreds or thousands of dollars.
So, should the Sheriff knock on your door and serve you with a summons and complaint, start shopping for an attorney. It doesn’t pay to DIY in this situation.
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