Every day we receive telephone calls from people who tell us that they “got a bad deal” in court or that the judge wouldn’t listen to them. They want to know if we can fix it. Unfortunately, this is usually imposible. You have one shot at a trial or hearing. There are no second chances or “do overs”. If you want to try to represent yourself because you’ve watched every episode of “People’s Court” and believe you know the law or because your “friend” told you what to do, you are making a mistake.
Entrustment of a legal matter may involve the money, confidences, reputation, property, finances, freedom or even the life of a client. Therefore, it is important for people to use the services of a lawyer when appropriate. Lawyers receive years of legal training, know the local rules and procedures of the court, and have the experience to know how best to present your case. Lawyers are trained to safeguard the rights of the general public and are bound by the Code of Professional Responsibility adopted by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. They subject to the rules of the legal profession, the discipline system of the Supreme Court and continuing legal education requirements.
While you can get some useful information regarding your legal matter on the internet, the information cannot be substitute for the careful review of an experienced attorney. You cannot just look up a law in a book and know how to handle your case. Law books are not do-it-yourself books. Your case will involve substantive law, procedural rules, case law or precedent, constitutional law, local rules, and rules established by the judge assigned to your case. In addition, these laws, rules and procedures are constantly changing.
Many people think that if they represent themselves that the judge or court personelle will help them. This is simply not true and, in fact, court personelle are strictly prohibted from giving legal advice. The only person in the courtroom that you can count on to be on your side is your lawyer.
A number of do-it-yourself “kits” are offered for sale from time to time. Kits are available for getting a divorce, writing a will, declaring bankruptcy or forming a business. It is not illegal for you to use these for your own affairs; however, you risk paying the consequences should a problem arise with these documents.
What mistakes might you make when representing yourself? The fact is, you may never know.