We know that for many reasons people may find that they have to represent themselves at court. This may be through choice because they don’t want a solicitor or necessity; they don’t have the funds. It can be a daunting prospect. We have therefore collated some top tips which will hopefully assist you in feeling more confident and prepared.
- Do visit the court before the hearing to familiarise yourself with the surroundings.
- Do get plenty of rest the night before any hearing.
- Do dress appropriately. This does not have to be a suit but it is important to appear presentable. You will find this will also give you more confidence within the court room
- Do address the judge/magistrates and all other parties’ appropriately and respectfully. A district judge should be referred to as ‘Sir’ or ‘Madam’ and the magistrates as ‘Your Worships’.
- Do bring all relevant paperwork with you. It is often best to have a succinct note at the top of your papers that you can refer to. This will ensure you don’t overlook the main points. You should consider filing a succinct position statement with the court in advance of the hearing which is a succinct document that outlines your main points of argument.
- Do consider bringing someone with you to court for support. You can ask that a supportive friend or family member comes into the court with you as a McKenzie friend. However, it is important to note that this person will be unable to speak on your behalf; they are acting as a support to you and may wish to take a note to assist you in remembering points raised after the hearing. It is not advisable to take anyone to court that you know will cause disruption or the other side will deem to be confrontational such as a new partner.
- Don’t worry about forgetting things - the court does not expect you to recite every concern or detail you have. This is why it is important to consider filing a position statement with the court by email in advance of the hearing as this will help guide the judge or magistrates.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for assistance - if you do not understand a question, ask the court to make it clearer or ask for additional time to collate your thoughts. You will not be expected to recite case law or precedent.
- Don’t be disrespectful when the other side is making their arguments no matter how much you disagree with them. The best advice is to stay composed and continue looking at the judge or magistrates at all times. The court doesn’t appreciate anyone interrupting others when making arguments - you will always have your opportunity to respond after the other side has finished.
Finally, consider getting legal advice about the merits of your case or how to structure your arguments. This could be money well spent as you might see the way to a settlement more quickly or avoid doing things that could be detrimental to your position. A review of documents, statements or merits can be worthwhile. Also think about instructing a barrister directly for just the court hearing via the direct access scheme.
The information on this site about legal matters is provided as a general guide only. Although we try to ensure that all of the information on this site is accurate and up to date, this cannot be guaranteed. The information on this site should not be relied upon or construed as constituting legal advice and Howes Percival LLP disclaims liability in relation to its use. You should seek appropriate legal advice before taking or refraining from taking any action.