Are you representing yourself in court? Do you have questions, concerns, or just don’t know where to begin? Then this blog post is for you! In this post, we’ll discuss five tips for unrepresented litigants.
Navigating the law can be difficult to say the least, but doing it on your own can often seem like an impossible task. The court room can be daunting, and being self-represented can leave much room for error if you’re not on top of things. Here are 5 tips for unrepresented litigants that can help clear up some of the uncertainty around your legal journey.
Am I An Unrepresented Litigant?
First off, what is an unrepresented litigant, and how do you know if you are one or not? Well, they are generally defined as an unrepresented or self-represented party, such as an individual or company, who do not use legal services for help. Unrepresented litigants are also known as “pro se” parties and are often unrepresented because the cost of legal counsels are too high or the counsels themselves are not as easily accessible. If any of this seems to describe you, or if you have heard legal counsels describe you as “unrepresented, self-represented, or pro se” then the odds are high that you are an unrepresented litigant.
Tip #1: A Strong Foundation
So, how do you represent yourself successfully without using legal counsel? The first tip that will establish a strong foundation for your case is “don’t talk about the facts of your case with anyone.” Why is this the case? Well, with regards to criminal cases, it seems rather obvious: anything posted on social media or documented between you and another individual can be used as evidence against you by prosecutors. It’s best in this situation to play it safe, and only trust yourself with this information.
On the other hand, it’s important to keep the facts of your case to yourself in civil cases because the statements you make after a settlement has been reached can still affect the outcome. This is especially true if you’re texting, talking, or posting on social media. What you disclose after the fact can still violate the confidentiality agreement included in the settlement. Overall, whether you use this advice during your case or even after it’s over, it’s better to be safe than sorry when discussing the facts of your case. Be cautious, and keep that information to yourself.
Tip #2: Meet With the DA
Another tip to know when representing yourself is that it’s alright to meet with the DA to discuss resolving the case, as long as you abide by tip #1. If you’re able to negotiate a resolution to your case, you shouldn’t be afraid to meet with the district attorney’s office in order to do so. Again, just remember that you shouldn’t disclose any facts about your case that aren’t absolutely necessary.
Tip #3: Keep Good Lists
Along with these two tips, another important piece of advice is to keep good lists of witness contact information and update it regularly. Since you’re representing yourself in your case, you have to be in charge of who your witnesses are and how you can get in contact with them. A benefit to this is that pro se litigants are able to conduct their own witness depositions. During a deposition, witnesses give sworn testimonies, which allows both sides of the case to get a sense of what the witness will say in court, and it also creates a written testimony that can be used at trial. Keeping an updated list of witnesses will also be beneficial if your case goes to trial since you won’t have an attorney to do this for you.
Tip #4: Draft a Timeline
A fourth piece of advice for unrepresented litigants is to draft a detailed timeline soon after the alleged event has occurred for easy reference later. We all know that memory can be unreliable, especially long after an event has occurred. Creating a hard copy, list of events with dates and details will prevents any gaps from forming in your retelling of the event. Staying on top of matters like this will be extremely beneficial down the line, especially if your case drags on for months, or even years.
Tip #5: Secure Your Evidence
The fifth and final tip for being an unrepresented litigant is to consider collecting media evidence to store in a secure location, not just on your phone. This type of evidence can include surveillance videos, photos, screenshots, and recordings. Since you’re pro se, you won’t have access to attorneys, investigators, and legal assistants who can do these things for you: it’s up to you to gather and store evidence that will be crucial to your case. Examples of secure locations to store this information is on a password-protected computer, hard drive, or even a flash drive if it’s stored safely. If you keep important evidence like this just on your phone, you’re risking your phone being stolen, destroyed, or just simply have its battery die. Like many of the other tips on this list, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Ultimately, there are many tips for unrepresented litigants, but among the most important are to keep the facts to yourself, know it’s alright to meet with the DA, keep an updated list of witnesses, create a detailed timeline of events, and collect media evidence and store it some place secure. Keeping all of these in mind, you will be far more successful in your case than without them. An important aspect of being self-represented is to do your research since you don’t have a legal team to do it for you. Although it may seem daunting to navigate the legal field on your own, with some expert advice and a productive attitude, it’s certainly not impossible.
Need Legal Help?
Looking for legal representation? Not sure if hiring an attorney is the right thing for you? Consider reaching out to our attorneys here at the Colorado Lawyer Team for a free 30-minute consultation. With specialties in family law and criminal law, our experienced, dedicated, and hard-working attorneys may just be the representation you need! Find more information at https://CoLawTeam.com or call 970.670.0378.
IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: This blog post does not create an attorney-client relationship. It’s a blog post and not legal advice. Each case is different, and this post is meant for generalized knowledge, only. If you haven’t signed an engagement letter (or even received an engagement letter) AND issued some form of payment (peanuts do not count), then no attorney-client relationship exists. Nevertheless, we will do our best to ensure your confidentiality should you choose to contact us privately, but do not post about your case in the comments here (because reaching out for help with your case should be confidential, damn it).
If you have done both of the things mentioned earlier–signed a letter and paid us–then, and only then, you might be a client. But merely chatting with us online does not a client make. Suffice it to say, if you aren’t absolutely certain about whether or not an attorney-client relationship exists between yourself and the Colorado Lawyer Team, you should probably ask for some clarity. Until then, we’ll keep your secrets but we don’t formally represent you… YET.