Representing yourself in any type of legal matter without the benefit of legal counsel is referred to as acting “Pro Se”. Pro Se (pronounced ‘pro say’) literally means “on one’s own behalf” — you choose to act on your own without hiring an attorney.
Legal self representation applies to more than just court proceedings; actions like creating a Last Will and Testament, filing a Deed, handling your own Divorce or filing for Bankruptcy all fall under the pro se category, provided you complete the legal forms and file the paperwork without the advice or representation of a lawyer.
WHAT TYPE OF PEOPLE REPRESENT THEMSELVES?
A variety of legal organizations and bar associations have conducted studies of self-represented litigants, and these studies show that a wide variety of individuals rely upon themselves for handling their legal issues:
o Persons with lower than average incomes are more likely to represent themselves.
o A significant portion of self-represented individuals report they could have afforded to hire an attorney to represent them, but that they chose not to do so.
o Some studies show that those who represent themselves are far more likely to be satisfied with the legal process than those who are represented by attorneys.
o Three quarters of those who represented themselves in court said they would do it again before they hired an attorney.
WHY DO PEOPLE CHOOSE TO REPRESENT THEMSELVES?
Likewise, the reasons that people offer for representing themselves in legal matters are as many as they are varied:
o Lawyers are too expensive
o Many feel that lawyers do not deliver quality services, fail to return telephone calls, and treat their clients in an unfriendly or unprofessional manner
o For many, their cases or situations are simple enough to handle themselves or involve simple legal document preparation and filing
o People know their own situation best and believe that they are in the best position to address any issues that may face
o People want to be in control of their own lives, circumstances and situations
IS REPRESENTING YOURSELF LEGAL — OR WISE?
In every state in the United States, individuals are permitted to represent themselves inside the courtroom and/or to handle their own legal issues without the assistance of a lawyer. (This does not mean, however, that non-lawyers can act for or on behalf of any other person or even represent a corporation or limited liability company that they own; to do this, one must be a licensed attorney.)
Lawyers often suggest that one is “foolish” for representing one’s self, whether in court or for transactional or other legal matters. However, those armed with the correct information and technology — including the appropriate legal forms and legal documents — as well as the desire to address their own legal issues can achieve the same results themselves as they would with a lawyer. Of equal importance, those persons can save themselves hundreds — if not thousands — of dollars in the process.