The #1 Mistake Made by Pro Se and Pro Per Parties

This article suddenly came to me when I was talking with a person representing themselves the other day.

We were discussing an issue regarding the Rules of Civil Procedure, which anyone who is representing themselves had BETTER know and understand if they want to win a lawsuit, and he proceeded to lecture me on what the rule meant and how he was about to get the case against him dismissed because the lawyer didn't understand the rules.

Unfortunately, he was wrong about what he thought the rule meant and there were cases directly on point. Sometimes it's easier just to agree to disagree and so I did and he'll find out when the judge tears his head off and award sanctions against him.

I hate to see it happen to someone but all I can do is try.

However, it may provide some help for someone else because it prompted me to write this.

I am an avid watcher of movies and used to use them a lot when I spoke to lawyers at legal seminars. They are very, very instructive and can make a point that is easily remembered.

When I was discussing the civil procedure with that guy and he was telling me how wrong I was all I could do was envision him in court and this clip from "Days of Thunder" popped into my mind. It was one of my favorites to use when lecturing on things going wrong in court. The clip is a little long but it really does feel like this in court sometimes. Watch for the line at  2:36:


Back to the topic for the day, the #1 mistake made by pro se and prop per parties when they represent themselves in a lawsuit or in court is not their lack of knowledge, which is what many people believe but rather the fact that many of them don't know that they have a lack of knowledge.

If you don't know something, you can learn. If, however, you think you know everything then you've got a problem.

Good attorneys are much more versatile than you would imagine. While the law can often remain unchanged for years it can also dramatically change in a day as a court issues a new ruling. A case can change in a split second, for example when a witness testifies to something different than you anticipated, so to be good and successful you have to adapt.

However, many people representing themselves get in a mind set that cannot be changed and this is their downfall. 

Perhaps Dirty Harry said it best:


This is especially true in law.

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