Laws and organizations charged with regulating judicial conduct may also affect pro se litigants. For example, The State of California Judicial Council has addressed through published materials the need of the Judiciary to act in the interests of fairness to self-represented litigants.[9] The California rules express a preference for resolution of every case on the merits, even if resolution requires excusing inadvertence by a pro se litigant that would otherwise result in a dismissal. The Judicial Council justifies this position based on the idea that "Judges are charged with ascertaining the truth, not just playing referee ... A lawsuit is not a game, where the party with the cleverest lawyer prevails regardless of the merits."[10] It suggests "the court should take whatever measures may be reasonable and necessary to insure a fair trial" and says "There is only one reported case in the U.S. finding a judge's specific accommodations have gone too far." The committee notes to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure rule 56 on summary judgments notes that "Many courts take extra care with pro se litigants, advising them of the need to respond and the risk of losing by summary judgment if an adequate response is not filed. And the court may seek to reassure itself by some examination of the record before granting summary judgment against a pro se litigant."[11]


Many lawyers routinely ask clients to pay a “retainer”—a deposit or advance fee—that is kept in a trust account and used as services are provided. Your legal coach may ask for a retainer in order to see that you are serious and have the money to pay. However, you shouldn’t be expected to come up with a large amount of money, because you do not plan on running up high legal bills. A fee of more than $500 is excessive, especially before you know whether the legal coach relationship is really working out.

11. See Donna Stienstra, Jared Bataillon, and Jason A. Cantone, Assistance to Pro Se Litigants in U.S. District Courts: A Report on Surveys of Clerks of Court and Chief Judges *3 (Federal Judicial Center, 2011), archived at http://perma.cc/8TYT-7Y43 (reporting that 90 percent of the US district courts surveyed have adopted at least one procedural reform).
6. The Supreme Court has indicated awareness of this issue. See Neitzke v Williams, 490 US 319, 326 (1989) (noting “the problems in judicial administration caused by the surfeit of meritless in forma pauperis complaints in the federal courts, not the least of which is the possibility that meritorious complaints will receive inadequate attention or be difficult to identify amidst the overwhelming number of meritless complaints”).
The American Bar Association (ABA) has also been involved with issues related to self-representation.[65] In 2008, the Louis M. Brown Award for Legal Access was presented to the Chicago-Kent College of Law Center for Access to Justice & Technology for making justice more accessible to the public through the use of the Internet in teaching, legal practice and public access to the law. Their A2J Author Project is a software tool that empowers those from the courts, legal services programs and educational institutions to create guided interviews resulting in document assembly, electronic filing and data collection. Viewers using A2J to go through a guided interview are led down a virtual pathway to the courthouse. As they answer simple questions about their legal issue, the technology then "translates" the answers to create, or assemble, the documents that are needed for filing with the court.[66]
Against this background, it doesn’t normally make sense to interpret your adversary’s offer to “talk settlement” as a sign of weakness. Nor should you be reluctant to be the one to suggest a negotiated settlement. In fact, judges, arbitrators, and mediators routinely urge adversaries to explore settlement even if previous attempts have failed. It’s a wise person who never closes the door to a reasonable settlement.

In the same vein of using your body, working out--even for just ten minutes a day-- can do wonders for clearing up your mind. When we work out, as I'm sure you know, our bodies emit endorphins that allow us to feel happy--even if we can't explain why. If you don't have time to squeeze in a full-body workout or some substantial cardio that day, just do a couple jumping jacks or take a brisk walk around the block. How much better--and more confident--you feel will amaze you.
Some courts issue orders against self representation in civil cases. A court enjoined a former attorney from suing the new lover of her former attorney.[29] The Superior Court of Bergen New Jersey also issued an order against pro se litigation based on a number of lawsuits that were dismissed and a failure to provide income tax returns in case sanctions might issue.[30] The Superior Court of New Jersey issued an order prohibiting a litigant from filing new lawsuits.[31] The Third Circuit however ruled that a restriction on pro se litigation went too far and that it could not be enforced if a litigant certified that he has new claims that were never before disposed of on the merits.[32] The 10th Circuit ruled that before imposing filing restrictions, a district court must set forth examples of abusive filings and that if the district court did not do so, the filing restrictions must be vacated.[33] The District of Columbia Court of Appeals wrote that "private individuals have 'a constitutional right of access to the courts',[34] that is, the 'right to sue and defend in the courts'."[35]

Every Supreme Court Justice is in charge of a judicial circuit in the country. The justices and the Judicial Conference of the United States should make each federal judge understand that they are expected to treat pro se litigants with respect and without disdain. They should make clear that judicial councils will take complaints seriously if judges behave in a prejudicial manner toward litigants who represent themselves.


The relative win ratios tell a similar story. There is wide variance based on the type of lawsuit being brought, but represented litigants consistently have far better outcomes than pro se litigants in court. When both parties are represented, plaintiffs win at a rate between 1.4 and 42.1 times as often as when only the defendant is represented. By contrast, a represented plaintiff is roughly 0.2 to 0.9 times as likely to win a case against a represented defendant as against a pro se defendant.91
All jurisdictions have adopted rules regarding unbundled legal services. For example, most states follow the American Bar Association’s Model Rule of Professional Conduct 1.2(c), which provides that lawyers may limit the scope of their representation, as long as the limitations are reasonable under the circumstances, and the client gives informed consent.
This response is not to be construed as legal advice and is provided for educational purposes only. This response does not create an attorney/ client relationship. The response provides general legal information and education. This response does not address any specifics concerning this inquiry, as the inquiry as written may have omitted details which would make the reply unsuitable. The inquirer is strongly encouraged to consult with an attorney in his or her own state to acquire more information about this issue. Licensed to practice in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Fill-in-the-blank court forms for most states are available online. When you visit a state court website that has do-it-yourself forms, you may be asked a series of questions about your legal problem. Your answers will automatically generate the appropriate form with instructions on how to complete it and what to do with it once it’s done. To see the forms available on New York’s self-help website, visit www.nycourthelp.gov/diy/index.html.
Sara J. Berman is the Director of Academic and Bar Success Programs at the nonprofit AccessLex Institute Center for Legal Education Excellence, an organization committed to understanding the barriers that impede access to law school for historically underrepresented groups and improving access to law school for all; identifying actionable strategies and public policies to increase law school affordability; and strengthening the value of legal education. Berman is the author of several bar exam and legal education books and articles, including Pass the Bar Exam: A Practical Guide to Achieving Academic & Professional Goals and Bar Exam MPT Preparation & Experiential Learning for Law Students: Interactive Performance Test Training. Before joining AccessLex, Berman worked for more than two decades in various law schools.  She has more than 15 years of experience in distance learning in legal education, and co-authored Represent Yourself in Court: How to Prepare and Try a Winning Case and The Criminal Law Handbook: Know Your Rights, Survive the System, plain English primers on the civil and criminal justice systems. More on Berman’s publications at https://ssrn.com/author=2846291 and on AccessLex publications at https://www.ssrn.com/link/AccessLex-Institute-RES.html
Posner’s resignation is a powerful reminder of the challenges pro se litigants continue to face. His belief that pro se litigants are frequently mistreated in civil litigation and denied a full and fair opportunity to vindicate their claims is neither new nor limited to federal appellate courts.3 Numerous legal commentators have expressed similar concerns.4 Yet, though the belief that pro se litigants are underserved by the legal community is widespread, the full extent of the challenges they face in court is still only partially understood.
Chicago: Justice for the “Little Guy”?, 72 Nw U L Rev 947 (1978) (discussing deficiencies of pro se small claims courts). See also Margaret Martin Barry, Accessing Justice: Are Pro Se Clinics a Reasonable Response to the Lack of Pro Bono Legal Services and Should Law School Clinics Conduct Them?, 67 Fordham L Rev 1879, 1926 (1999) (describing the pro se system as one that “sacrifices justice for expediency”).
Many lawyers routinely ask clients to pay a “retainer”—a deposit or advance fee—that is kept in a trust account and used as services are provided. Your legal coach may ask for a retainer in order to see that you are serious and have the money to pay. However, you shouldn’t be expected to come up with a large amount of money, because you do not plan on running up high legal bills. A fee of more than $500 is excessive, especially before you know whether the legal coach relationship is really working out.
Try to answer questions on your own. Remember that you are hiring a legal coach, not a full-service lawyer. That means you need to do as much as you can by yourself and only turn to the coach when you are really stuck. By reading this book all the way through and consulting a nearby law library, you can answer many of your questions on your own. And those you cannot answer completely you can often narrow down.
Unfortunately, the ideal of the multi-door courthouse is at odds with how courts traditionally operate: to support and enhance the lawyer business by making it extremely difficult to get through court without a lawyer. As long as courts are institutionally biased against creating a level playing field for the self-represented, it will make no difference how many doors a court has.
Best investment ever! My $249 won $216,000! I sued my employer for violating my copyright. More than a few lawyers turned me down, afraid to take on a giant corporation. After nearly giving up, I found your course. You are right. We can win (if the law is on our side) regardless how powerful our opponents may be. Our liberty really is in the law. Your course gives the common man power to get justice!... Patrick D.

The pro se information on the Court's website is specifically for individuals who are representing themselves in the Eastern District of North Carolina without the assistance of an attorney. It is intended as an informative and practical resource for pro se litigants, and is not a substitute for legal advice from an experienced attorney. The information is procedural in nature and should be read in conjunction with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Local Rules of this Court and the individual practices of the judge assigned to your case. Moreover, the links to other websites are for informational purposes only, and neither the United States District Court Clerk's Office nor any employee of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina is responsible for the accuracy of the information contained in other websites.
Shauna Strickland. Virginia Self-Represented Litigant Study: Outcomes of Civil Cases in General District Court, Juvenile & Domestic Relations Court, and Circuit Court. (December 2017). This report characterizes Circuit Court civil cases by analyzing caseload composition, the presence of legal representation, the level of case contention, and case outcomes.
Unfortunately for this empirical exercise, district courts do not randomly decide whether to implement a particular reform. If these pro se reforms had been randomly assigned, then this analysis would mimic an experiment, and it would be safer to conclude (provided the statistics suggested so) that any differences in case outcomes shown in the tables below were causal. Without random assignment of pro se reforms to district courts, the conclusions of this analysis may suffer from selection bias. For example, courts that are particularly favorable to pro se litigants might also be more likely to implement reforms. If pro se litigants happened to fare better in these courts, it would be difficult to empirically discern whether litigants fare better because of the reforms or the favorable attitude, and some measure of the district court’s favorability toward pro se litigants could be an important omitted variable.
Table 4 suggests that, like the other pro se reforms that Part III considers, the pro se reforms in EDNY have not been effective in improving case outcomes for pro se litigants. The coefficient on the dummy variable indicating whether the EDNY pro se reforms were instituted is -0.59, and the 95 percent confidence interval suggests that there is some nonzero negative effect when no controls are instituted in the first model in column one.128 The results are similar for the second and third models except that, once all districts are controlled for, the negative impact of the reform is statistically significant. When dummies are introduced corresponding to the year of each case filing, this negative effect disappears and the fourth and fifth models indicate no statistically significant impact from the reform. Including the full set of controls for year and district, the 95 percent confidence interval suggests that the reforms in EDNY had an impact of somewhere between -0.43 percent and 0.51 percent on the win rates for pro se litigants, with a statistically insignificant mean estimated impact of 0.04 percent.129 These results suggest that pro se reforms were not effective at improving win rates for pro se litigants.
A number of commentators have trumpeted reforms at the trial court level geared toward assisting pro se litigants as a possible solution.8 These reforms usually aim to give pro se litigants access to resources and information that can help them successfully navigate the legal process, reduce their costs, or provide them with assistance from courts’ offices.9 Examples of reforms that have been implemented include providing pro se litigants with access to electronic filing systems that make it easier to file lawsuits and monitor proceedings, allowing pro se litigants to communicate with law clerks about their claims and proceedings, and publicly disseminating information about resources that may be available to pro se litigants through the court or third parties.10 Critically, these reforms can be implemented by the trial courts and their staff and do not require significant additional contributions from attorneys, clinics, or other legal institutions. Accordingly, these programs can help pro se litigants without diverting legal resources away from other causes, including indigent criminal defense. A large number of federal district courts have already implemented at least some of these procedural reforms aimed at helping pro se litigants.11
As the plausibility of civil Gideon has diminished in the wake of Turner, trial court reforms for pro se litigants have emerged as a compromise. Both proponents and critics of civil Gideon see major potential benefits of pro se reform: it is a low-cost option that could conceivably provide meaningful benefits to pro se litigants without diverting legal resources from more critical cases, it helps ensure pro se litigants will receive fundamentally fair hearings, and it is a more politically and jurisprudentially feasible solution than civil Gideon.60
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.
According to Boston Bar Association Task Force 1998 report in every court studied by the task force, litigants without lawyers are present in surprising numbers. In some counties, over 75% of the cases in Probate and Family Courts have at least one party unrepresented. In the Northeast Housing Court, over 50% of the landlords and 92% of the tenants appear without lawyers in summary process cases.[40]
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