Acting pro se means to represent yourself in court without the assistance of an attorney. Those that decide to be a self-representing litigant may do so due to cost issues or because they simply want to strongly influence the outcome of the case or perhaps they have a legal background and believe that they have what it takes to represent themselves. However, representing yourself in court can be fraught with difficulties and the decision to do so should not be made lightly. The following are four tips that will help you in court if you decide to do so.
Hygiene and Personal Appearance
While it should be common sense, one of the most important things when it comes to representing yourself in court is hygiene. This is on top of the necessary dress code. Make certain to have clean hair and of course clean skin. Take special care to make your teeth pearly white. Also don’t forget managing any facial hair and even fingernails. Always wear antiperspirant and deodorant, especially as you may sweat while nervous in the courtroom. Just pay extra time to grooming.
Those that represent themselves in court may not realize ahead of time that you need to speak at a certain volume in order to be heard by the judge or jury. Keep in mind that when people are nervous they tend to speak very softly or stumble over their words. Avoid speaking too quickly and project your voice so that everyone can hear the facts of the case. Speaking loud enough and clearly enough is crucial for anyone representing themselves pro se.
If you are representing yourself pro se it almost isn’t possible to be too prepared. In addition to making sure that you have all of the necessary evidence, witnesses and photographs to prove your case, it is crucial to have enough of them. For every single document that you use you will need three copies. That way you will keep one copy, the other party in the case will have a copy, and the judge will have the third copy. The same goes for any photographs that you need for the case as well.
When representing yourself in court you will likely have to answer direct questions from the judge or the attorney for the other party of the case. Don’t be afraid to be honest about not knowing the answer to a question. Pretending that you don’t know something or simply outright lying can be devastating to your case. There is no need to take that risk.
Representing yourself in court is certainly not easy. While you are preparing your case it can be easy to overlook small details that can make a big difference in the outcome of your hearing. It’s crucial to take as much time possible to plan ahead without missing those details. Whether you are litigating in criminal court or small claims court, these tips can help you to properly prepare for your case.
Today’s guest post was provided by Brian S., article writer for Daytona Beach law firm Rue, Ziffra & Caldwell. Brian is a Rollins College graduate and enjoys writing on a variety of topics.