The Pros and Cons of Representing Yourself in Court

Is it a foolish thing to do to go all out and represent yourself before a court of law? Lawyers have a saying that a man representing himself in court has both a fool as a client and a fool as a lawyer. And they’re partly right. But the same could be said, however, for a client who hires a fool of a lawyer. 

Our U.S. government gives all defendants the right to an attorney. But those who want to represent themselves, “Pro Se”, have their fair share of disadvantages. The first of which being that judges will look down on you. Even if you believe you have the closing lines of Atticus Finch from “To Kill A Mockingbird”, it is probably something the judges have all heard before. Here are a few of the cons of representing yourself in court, versus the pros.

The Cons of going “Pro Se”

1). You Cannot Win an Argument Using “Common Sense” 

To the many aspiring ones who want to give the judge and the courtroom an impassioned plea using common sense to defend their case, you are sorely wrong. Common sense evidence cannot be used in a court of law, nor will it earn you any merit standing before the judge. Arguments must have enough evidence and be judged according to the law in order to win a case.

2). The Court Sees You as Biased

Sadly, those “Pro Se” representatives. cannot get past this one. The court will see anyone representing themselves as obviously biased. A person representing themselves may overlook items that can be used against them in a court of law. And if you are so passionate about your stance and believe you are so right, you may miss the prosecution’s strategy to use your emotional speeches to your disadvantage in court. Passion in a court setting does not equal power.

3). You Likely Have a Severe Lack of Legal Training 

Anyone standing before the bar without experience or chops to back them up is at the mercy of the court. Those expecting to get a ruling in their favor for the ‘obviousness’ of their case are in for a sore disappointment, since judges can only make decisions according to case law, the local, state and federal laws, and the rules of the courtroom.

4). The Court System Discourages Self-Representation

Representing yourself in court takes a lot of work, effort, and backbreaking self-study to win a case. Anyone hoping to make a statement or simply “stand up” in court needs to realize that the system is geared to help lawyers represent defendants, not the other way around. It is hard work to win, and passionate pleas are disregarded in a court of law. 

The Pros of “Pro Se”

1). Lawyers are Expensive 

After listing all the disadvantages, it’s worth it to list some of the pros of representing yourself in court. For starters, lawyers are incredibly expensive if not court-appointed. They make money per hour, and the more hours you invest in your lawyer, the higher your bill gets.

2). Your Lawyer May Not Be Fully Representing You 

It can also be the case, unfortunately, that lawyers don’t fully represent you in court. You may give an argument in a divorce case to not pay for a spouse’s lawyers, and if your lawyer does not argue the case well enough, you may be stuck paying a lawyer’s fee for the opposing party. If both lawyers are on the crooked side and are actively attempting to strip you of any assets, this can happen to anyone.

3). You are in Charge of Your Case 

In representing yourself, you are in charge of the facts. Lawyers can’t read your mind, and as well as you try to present your case to them, there are still facts that only you know or understand well enough to represent your case in court. And it can feel a lot better to put up a fight yourself, than to pay someone who isn’t fighting as hard for you. If you discover that you have a lot of free time on your hands, a knack for sifting through technical information, a lack of a budget for an expensive lawyer, and feel you can represent yourself well enough in court, you may well be equipped to handle a case on your own.

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