I've been at my law practice for a while now. After the years of requisite training in law school--where I excelled in work that involved civil procedure, evidence, federal courts, etc.--I then spent two years working fulltime as a clerk for a federal judge.
Having now practiced law for over 30 years, I've been near my fair share of litigation. As far as court time goes I've represented clients in six cases and won all six. So few, you ask? Well, as my clients know, I'm more prone to recommend that they find a way toward an amicable agreement outside of court, saving themselves time and resources in the long run. All that aside, I also focus on business law and therefore am not a specialist in court practice.
So if and when I were to personally face time in court, I'd know enough to know that I should seek out representation. Litigation in court is a specialized practice with its own customs, procedures, and both standard and localized rules. It also takes a specific skill set to know if it's even worth taking a matter as far as a trial. And that difficult decision is a function of the amount in controversy (how much you can win or lose), the merits (whether you are likely to win or lose), whether you can afford counsel, and a myriad other factors.
So when a prospect told me recently that he was thinking about forgoing the expertise of experienced legal counsel and just representing himself in court, I was taken aback and told him to think twice. He's not facing a small claims issue either. But this is a classic case of 'the more you know, the more you realize you need to learn.' For this potential client, the idea of self representation seemed to him to be the best way forward. But had he taken the time to truly understand the process, I'm sure his opinion would have changed. And this is where the danger lies.
All too often folks' idealized, almost romanticized notions of what happens in a courtroom cast a heavy shadow over the reality of the matter. This is serious business, and the more expertise you have on your team, the better. Because if you aren't familiar with all of the customs and rules that guide behavior, procedures, and norms, you are more likely to make a mess of things, embarrassing yourself and potentially even jeopardizing your rights or the case as a whole.
Would I represent myself? Not with what I know. And I'd advise anyone else to be just as realistic.
Honest Advice, Sage Business Guidance
At Calkins Law Firm we're proud of our achievements, but we don't let them get in the way of growth. It's easy to rely on supposed expertise, but we prefer humility and honesty--with clients, but more importantly, with ourselves. We know what we don't know, and if it's an area that makes sense for us to look into, we will. But as we focus on helping business clients grow and steer clear of potential pitfalls, we will never lead anyone to believe that we are something that we really aren't. It's not a good look for us. Instead we pledge to keep the honest discussion open and offer clients the best advice we have. If this sounds like an approach you'd appreciate, please get in touch. We're always happy to work with a fellow realist.