Dangerous Waters Ahead.
Civil litigation can concern an almost limitless number of subject matters — including contract disputes, property disputes, personal injury, and more. When these disputes must be litigated, however, the procedures by which they are decided are very similar. These procedures are complicated, and, at times, counterintuitive. You need an experienced trial attorney who can successfully navigate you through the unfamiliar territory of litigation.
Why do I need an attorney? Won’t the court give me some leeway because I’m representing myself?
This depends on what court you are in. For example, many procedural rules are often relaxed in magistrate court because magistrate court is designed to accommodate parties without attorneys. However, the rules of evidence still apply. Evidence that you try to present may be objectionable hearsay, which means that if the other side objects to its admission into evidence, the court cannot even consider it without committing error. If you try to prove critical aspects of your case solely through objectionable hearsay, you may lose an otherwise meritorious claim.
On the other hand, if you represent yourself in superior court, you are charged with all of the knowledge that an attorney would have. This includes all of the “nitpicky” procedural rules regarding service, process, the timing of filings, and so on. If you attempt to represent yourself in superior court, you will likely very often test the judge’s patience, despite your best efforts. This could very easily irrevocably damage your case, particularly when the judge is also the decider of fact. It is rarely a good idea to attempt to represent yourself in superior court, even if you, yourself, are an attorney! As Abraham Lincoln once said, “a man who represents himself has a fool for a client.” This wisdom holds true today.