April 24, 2012

It is now generally accepted that unrepresented or self-represented litigants are becoming more and more common in the court system. It is widely agreed that unrepresented or self-represented litigants present unique challenges and difficulties – ones that can often be frustrating, time consuming and expensive.

I have opted to take a somewhat unorthodox approach in this paper as to what to expect and how to deal with a self-represented litigant. I first present a manifesto of the self-represented litigant in his/her own words. It is meant to grab your attention as self-represented litigants often do. Moreover, there is no easy way to describe a self-represented litigant, but a manifesto captures the spirit of a self-represented litigant and his/her thinking. I then present a lawyer’s toolkit. By definition, a toolkit offers a practical approach to the challenges and difficulties counsel faces when confronted by a self-represented litigant. It is designed to provide the reader with sound advice, collective wisdom, and specific tools to equip the reader in what will be the long struggle ahead.

Finally, it should be noted that there is a difference between the unrepresented litigant, who wants to retain a lawyer, but cannot afford to, and the self-represented litigant, who chooses to be self-represented, usually has an agenda, and often cannot find a lawyer who will work with him/her. I approach the topic through the matrix of a self-represented litigant – it is spicier. However, the experiences and lessons are equally applicable to the unrepresented litigant. Enjoy!

Read the full paper: The Self-Represented Litigant by Justin de Vries