Some individuals heading to court may decide to represent their case independently, without involving a lawyer. Choosing such a course for litigation presents its own challenges, requiring skill and planning.
Long before a court date is set, it is necessary to much preparation. This includes:
- Filing out necessary court forms
- Conducting legal research
- Gathering evidence
Filing Out Court Forms
To start a claim, ask for a court order or make a motion, self-represented litigants are required to fill out specific court forms. Since there are many types of forms, individuals must be sure to pick the correct ones.
Conducting Legal Research
To properly present a case in court, a prudent litigant takes the time to conduct legal research. This should include:
- Case law
Case law is law developed from judges’ decisions in other court cases. Legislation is written law passed by the government. Pre-trial research should focus on finding material that supports the individual’s case and evidence.
Evidence includes facts to support a conclusion. There are two types of evidence that courts accept:
- Oral evidence
Oral evidence is what an individual testify to while under oath. Usually, a witness or another third-party gives oral evidence. Documents include written materials that can take the form of physical or electronic records. Such documentation supplies information that supports the case.
Going To Court
Before attending court, an individual should have completed all preparatory work. At the actual trial, he or she should have the following documents in their possession:
- Court forms and documents
- Opening statement draft
- Documentary evidence
- List of witness questions
- Closing statement draft
During opening and closing statements, an individual speaks to the court directly. An opening statement tells the court what happens and what will be done during proceedings. A closing statement concludes the matter by summarizing evidence and laws.
Individuals will also need to prepare to ask questions of witnesses, whether their own or the other side’s. The manner that questions may be asked is guided by strict court procedures.
With solid preparation, self-represented individuals may be successful in court. Even if one chooses not to have professional legal representation during the actual trial, he or she may benefit from consulting a litigation lawyer for advice and strategy to effectively fight the case.