Pro Se and Representing Yourself in Court
There are several phrases associated with representing yourself in court.
"Pro Se" is actually a Latin phrase meaning "on one's own behalf" and is the most common way to refer to a person representing themselves in a legal situation.
Another phrase is "Pro Per" which is an abbreviated version of "In Propria Persona" and means "for one's self". This designation is not common and appears more in Louisiana self represented cases than in other states.
In reality, they both will work and mean the same thing, that a person is appearing as their own attorney.
This website provides posts written by attorneys and former attorneys, all of whom have been through law school and had an active, sometimes very active, trial practice in both criminal and civil law. As such, the information provided here has some basis in the law which makes LessonsInLaw.com different from many other websites catering to self represented litigants. We deal with legal issues as they are and not as we wish them to be. That means we shoot straight and won't waste your time with a lot of nonsense that is ineffective and likely to cause you more problems than it solves.
One of the most often voiced gripes by someone appearing pro se is that the judge, secretary, clerks, etc. won't tell them what they need to file. The reason for this is very simple: It's not their job! And, in reality, it can get them into serious trouble. No one should be offering legal advice if they haven;t been to law school or are not an attorney. In the case of a judge, they are absolutely prohibited by their ethical rules from assisting either party in their case. The clerks don;t have any actual legal training and some of the worst legal information I have ever heard has come from the mouths of the court clerks.
The most important thing that anyone can tell you about representing yourself is be prepared and knowledgeable about your case and the law. With the advent of the internet people now have quick and easy access to tons of information, sometimes too much so. In our book, The Guerrilla Guide to Legal Research: Finding the Law for Non-lawyers, the author explains not only what types of law you may face in researching your case but also gives a link to a website that allows you to do case law research absolutely free. With this type of information, the playing field is almost level, the only thing keeping it from being equal is that an attorney will know a lot of things without doing research where a non-attorney has to start from scratch.
We encourage you to read the various posts on this website and take the time to learn as much as you can about the law, your case, and perhaps even more importantly, your opponent's case. Of course, we recommend the various Guerrilla Guides to the Law to help you with specific areas, but just buying and reading those won't win your case for you, you must prepare, prepare, prepare!
If you have an idea for a blog post or a topic that you would like to see covered in a Guerrilla Guide please drop us an email and let us know.