But in the course of my experience, it became very apparent that the deck was stacked against me just because I was proceeding pro se – that is, representing myself, without an attorney. It's hard enough for a layman to win in court as it is, but the apparent disdain and discrimination that courts and judges show toward pro se litigants make it that much harder.
If you’re considering unbundled legal services, shop for your attorney with the same care as you would if you were hiring a lawyer to handle your entire case. That is, you need to investigate a lawyer’s qualifications, competence, and diligence. You also have to consider the cost of unbundled services, including the lawyer’s fee and additional expenses, such as fees for paralegals, investigators, and experts.
Courts are public institutions belonging to the people, and you have the right to represent yourself there. However, courts are also bureaucratic institutions with very heavy caseloads. Historically, filing clerks, courtroom clerks, court reporters, and even judges have usually preferred to deal with lawyers rather than with people who represent themselves. (When you represent yourself, you may find yourself referred to as a “pro per” or “pro se” litigant, Latin abbreviations favored by judges and lawyers.) Although the increasing number of people representing themselves is beginning to change these attitudes in some places, many court personnel believe (often mistakenly) that they can do their work more quickly and easily when they work with lawyers than when they work with people who are representing themselves.
There is virtually no way this guy decided to give it all up at the 11:59th hour for nothing in return. He’d never be able to afford to pay off his attorney, and his attorney wouldn’t take a case that wasn’t collectible this far. We will never known for sure — that’s the nature of confidential settlements — but it’s likely that an attorney and his client got paid VERY well this weekend.
The Connecticut Supreme Court narrowed criminal defendant's right to self representation, stating that "we are free to adopt for mentally ill or mentally incapacitated defendants who wish to represent themselves at trial a competency standard that differs from the standard for determining whether such a defendant is competent to stand trial". A Senior Assistant State's Attorney explained that the new standard essentially allows judges to consider whether the defendants are competent enough to perform the skills needed to defend themselves, including composing questions for voir dire and witnesses.
Taking part in a recent ribbon cutting in Brooklyn are, from left, Lynn Kelly, executive director of the City Bar Justice Center; Debra L. Raskin, New York City Bar Association president; Chief Judge Carol B. Amon, Eastern District of New York; Magistrate Judge Lois Bloom; and Nancy Rosenbloom, director of the Federal Pro Se Legal Assistance Project.
To represent yourself successfully, especially if your adversary has a lawyer, you must be prepared to invest substantial amounts of time in your case—and particularly in the many pretrial procedures and maneuvers that can mean the difference between winning and losing. To non-lawyers, the legal system seems to center on the outcomes of trials. After all, that’s the dramatic part—and the focus of so many movies and TV shows. If you believe these portrayals, you might think you just have to file a few papers, tell your story to a judge, and claim victory. (This was the belief of Vinny, who represents two defendants charged with murder in the wonderful courtroom comedy film, My Cousin Vinny. Vinny shows up for an arraignment and tries to explain to the judge that the police made a mistake. Vinny is shocked when the judge advises him that he’s not going to set aside all of his state’s procedures just because Vinny finds himself “in the unique position of representing clients who say they didn’t do it.”)
Find out what your jurisdiction does. If they don’t have them, it’s worth it to bring your own. If a hearing means anything to you, the money you shell out for a court reporter will pay back in spades. If it’s difficult to pay for a court reporter, try to stretch those hearings out as long as you can. If you’re in a multi-year case, you might have a hearing only 3 times per year anyway. If you find you’re having more and can’t afford it, prioritize them. This also helps you think strategically about your case.
When you interview a potential legal coach, ask about all fees and costs—including the initial interview. It obviously defeats your purpose if you have to spend more to consult a legal coach than you would to hire a lawyer to handle your entire case. Typically, lawyers use hourly, fixed, or contingency fee arrangements. Most likely, someone serving as your legal coach will charge you by the hour.
At the close of discovery, the parties may either pick a jury and then have a trial by jury or the case may proceed as a bench trial. A bench trial is only heard by the judge if the parties waive a jury trial or if the right to a jury trial is not guaranteed for their particular claim (such as those under equity in the U.S.) or for any lawsuits within their jurisdiction.
2. Motion for Instructed or Directed Verdict: This motion is usually made by the defendant at the close of evidence presented by the plaintiff’s side and is based on the premise that the plaintiff has failed to prove his case. If it is granted, the court instructs the jury to render a verdict for the defendant and against the plaintiff, and the trial is concluded in the defendant’s favor. If the court denies the motion, the trial continues with presentation of the defendant’s side.
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At trial, each person presents witnesses and the evidence collected is recorded. After this occurs, the judge or jury renders their decision. Generally speaking, the plaintiff has the burden of proof in making his claims, however, the defendant may have the burden of proof on other issues, such as affirmative defenses. The attorneys are held responsible in devising a trial strategy that ensures they meet the necessary elements of their case or (when the opposing party has the burden of proof) to ensure the opponent will not be able to meet his or her burden.