Arbitration is an alternative to trial that is often perceived to be quicker and less costly. In arbitration, a privately agreed-to arbitrator, not a judge, rules on the case. There is no jury, procedures before the hearing are more informal, and the arbitrator is not strictly bound by rules of evidence. Arbitrators generally charge by either the full or half day; you and your adversary split the arbitrator’s fee.
Limit the scope of trial. Pursuant to federal and state rules of evidence and procedure, courts are responsible for establishing ground rules to efficiently manage and regulate trial practice and trial testimony. This is especially important when trial involves a pro se party because the lack of substantive and procedural knowledge can create an ever-changing, and often ever-expanding, litigation framework. Accordingly, trial counsel should make use of pretrial briefing mechanisms—including motions in limine and bench memoranda—to limit the issues for trial. Pretrial briefing affords the pro se litigant the opportunity to have his or her voice heard on the issues while efficiently framing the matters for trial. If the rules of court do not impose page limits on the particular mode of briefing being used, trial counsel should ask the court to set a page limit to help focus the discussion. In addition, trial counsel should consider asking the court to allow the parties to submit in advance their questions for direct examination to both limit improper objections and further focus the testimony on relevant, admissible evidence.
The Center helps judges and courts advance access to civil justice, especially for poor and low-income individuals, by offering resources on 15 strategies and technical assistance. It works closely with the Conference of Chief Justices, the Conference of State Court Administrators and other national court organizations to implement access-to-justice solutions.
One important takeaway from this Comment, related to the limitations described above, is the importance of additional studies into the effectiveness of other reform measures, especially reform measures undertaken in courts other than federal district courts. As previously mentioned, other courts throughout the country have experimented with ways to help pro se litigants.130 Although the particular reforms analyzed here appear to have been ineffective, other reforms undertaken by other courts might achieve better results. With sufficient empirical legwork, successful reforms can be identified, and other courts can learn from those successes. Although courts likely attempt to learn from each other’s practices, without empirical validation of these techniques, there’s a risk that the blind are leading the blind. More empirical studies could help show the way.

Fixed Fees. A fixed fee is a set fee for a particular project. For example, a lawyer may charge $500 to write your will. It is unlikely that an attorney will suggest a fixed fee to coach you through your whole case, because the lawyer will have little idea of the amount of work involved. But the lawyer may suggest fixed fees for particular services along the way. For example, you may find a lawyer willing to charge you no more than a specific sum of money to review and edit your complaint or to help you respond to your opponent’s interrogatories.


We have written another book that can help if you or someone you know has been arrested or accused of a crime and is facing possible criminal charges. It’s called The Criminal Law Handbook: Know Your Rights, Survive the System (Nolo). While that handbook does not recommend self-representation in criminal cases, it can be a tremendous resource at a time you need solid, trustworthy information.
Yes, some judges may allow or require a pro se defendant to work with a “standby attorney”. This means that the defendant is free to represent themselves, but a lawyer is available for assistance when necessary. A standby attorney may be present at hearings and at trial to assist with procedural rules and/or argumentation. This type of hybrid representation setup has recently become a popular compromise between traditional representation and pro se representation.

The BIGGEST mistake pro se litigants make is thinking they know more than they do, as a way of overcompensating for lack of confidence. False bravado can lead you into mistakes #2, #3, and #4 on this list and a whole lot more. You don’t bring a court reporter because you don’t feel you need one. You don’t do research because you don’t have time, and you think you know enough. You react to or challenge every lawyer trick because you believe, without any evidence, that it’s the best thing to do. You talk about admiralty law, not because you know anything about it or where it fits into your case, but because you heard someone talk about it. You file the wrong motions in the wrong situations. It’s important to know what you don’t know and act accordingly. Instead of talking about sovereign citizenship, talk about and use civil procedure. Rather than reacting to lawyer antics, judicial bias or a sense of unfairness, focus on your case. Learn it backwards and forwards, and then bring your court reporter. That’s how you win. See Sovereign Citizens Make Pro Se Litigants Look Silly for more about the “problem” with sovereign citizens.
Unfortunately, with fees charged by lawyers commonly running in excess of $150 an hour, it may not make economic sense—or even be financially possible—for you to hire a lawyer. Even if you win and are able to collect what the other side owes you, the lawyer’s fees may devour much of your gain. As a result, representing yourself in court or dropping your claim or defense altogether may be your only realistic alternatives.
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”).
From the prison library, Gideon appealed to the United States Supreme Court, stating that, because he was denied counsel, his Sixth Amendment rights had been violated. In its 1963 ruling, the Supreme Court held that representation by counsel, even by defendants who cannot afford to hire an attorney, is a fundamental right under the U.S. Constitution. The opinion further stated that, because the Sixth Amendment does not distinguish between capital and non-capital offenses, the services of an attorney must be provided for an impoverished defendant in all criminal cases.
In September 2017, Judge Richard Posner abruptly resigned from the Seventh Circuit. In subsequent interviews, Posner explained that he resigned in part because of his disagreement with his judicial colleagues over the Seventh Circuit’s treatment of pro se litigants (those litigants who appear before courts without lawyers).1 In particular, Posner thought the court wasn’t “treating the pro se appellants fairly,” didn’t “like the pro se’s,” and generally didn’t “want to do anything with them.”2
Every pleading, motion, and other paper of a party represented by an attorney shall be signed by at least one attorney of record in the attorney's individual name, whose address shall be stated. A party who is not represented by an attorney shall sign the party's pleading, motion, or other paper and state the party's address. . . . The signature of an attorney or party constitutes a certificate by the signer that the signer has read the pleading, motion, or other paper; that to the best of the signer's knowledge, information, and belief formed after reasonable inquiry it is well grounded in fact and is warranted by existing law or a good faith argument for the extension, modification, or reversal of existing law, and that it is not interposed for any improper purpose, such as to harass or to cause unnecessary delay or needless increase in the cost of litigation. If a pleading, motion, or other paper is not signed, it shall be stricken unless it is signed promptly after the omission is called to the attention of the pleader or movant. If a pleading, motion, or other paper is signed in violation of this rule, the court, upon motion or upon its own initiative, shall impose upon the person who signed it, a represented party, or both, an appropriate sanction, which may include an order to pay to the other party or parties the amount of the reasonable expenses incurred because of the filing of the pleading, motion, or other paper, including a reasonable attorney's fee.
This handbook was developed to address the needs of the litigant who wishes to file a lawsuit pro se, without the aid of an attorney. However, we feel it is very important that the pro se litigant understand that there are alternatives to representing yourself if you are indigent. Additionally, there are matters that are extremely complex and each matter deserves appropriate representation.

Eighty percent of state criminal defendants cannot afford to pay for a lawyer, and only those who are actually incarcerated are constitutionally entitled to appointed counsel. Many people facing misdemeanor charges can, if convicted, be subjected to significant fines and fees, or face the loss of benefits (including housing) or deportation. Yet, they have no right to an attorney, and those who cannot afford a lawyer will go without one.
As we read we can let the words gently flow over us. We can let the words quietly be spoken to us in there own sweet way. We can let ourselves open to the thoughts and their meanings, the ideas and their origin, the phrases and the understandings that they have ready for us. Ready for us to assimilate and take on board. If we let them filter through and allow the words their power to move and rejuvenate. If we let ourselves be uplifted and filled with their sometimes hidden insights. Too gently and slowly to impact on our lives as we read - and in the future when we recall their meaning for us.
Times change and occasionally so too does the legal profession. In 2013, the House of Delegates of the American Bar Association passed a resolution “encouraging practitioners—when appropriate—to consider limiting the scope of their representation, including the unbundling of legal services as a means of increasing access to legal services.” Now, many attorneys provide a hybrid form of legal representation generally known as “limited-scope” or “unbundled representation.”
There are some notable records of pro se litigants winning more than $2,000 as plaintiffs: Robert Kearns, inventor of the intermittent windshield wiper who won more than $10 million from Ford for patent infringement; Dr. Julio Perez (District of Southern New York 10-cv-08278) won approximately $5 million in a federal jury trial from Progenics Pharmaceuticals for wrongful termination as a result of whistleblowing; Reginald and Roxanna Bailey (District of Missouri 08-cv-1456), a married couple, who together won $140,000 from Allstate Insurance in a federal jury trial; George M. Cofield, a pro se janitor, won $30,000 from the City of Atlanta in 1980; and Jonathan Odom, a pro se prisoner, who while still a prisoner, won $19,999 from the State of New York in a jury trial.[42][43][44] Timothy-Allen Albertson, who appeared in pro. per., was awarded $3,500 in 1981 in a judgment by the San Francisco Municipal Court entered against the Universal Life Church for defamation by one of its ministers.[45]
Encourage lawyer coaching. Many self-represented litigants are willing to pay lawyers to coach them through their cases--that is, give them information about the ins and outs of court and the substantive issues--without taking the case over. Yet, few lawyers are willing to enter into this type of relationship because of ethical concerns about participating in a case they don't control, and fear of being held liable for issues that are beyond the scope of the coaching relationship. The organized bar should address these concerns by:
Trial attorneys who are not mindful of the psychological and sociological elements at play when litigating against pro se parties risk exacerbating an already difficult situation by increasing the likelihood of protracted and unfocused litigation, appealable procedural missteps, and unmanaged expectations. Thus, at the outset of the lawsuit, an attorney facing a pro se opponent should make every effort to determine what is motivating the litigation (e.g., hurt feelings, anger, unmitigated expectations) and, if possible, the reason for the lack of representation. Throughout the pretrial process and during trial, a primary objective of counsel should be to strategically allow the pro se litigant to air his or her grievances in such a way as to limit the scope of triable issues while still being satisfied with his or her day in court.
95. Data is unavailable for three policies: procedural assistance by clerk’s office staff members as part of their regular duties, appointment of counsel to represent a pro se litigant for the full case, and appointment of counsel to represent a pro se litigant in limited circumstances. See id. Although it would be interesting to conduct an analysis similar to that conducted in the following Section for each of these policies, there is no obvious reason that the absence of this data would undermine any of the following results beyond the fact that an analysis similar to that conducted below could conceivably come to different conclusions for those policies.
Another common reason a defendant might choose pro se representation is the cost involved in hiring an attorney. If the defendant does not like the attorney that the court provides, it might cost them a significant amount of money to hire a private defense lawyer. Saving money is perhaps one of the greatest advantages of pro se representation. However, often times the defendant might be saving money at the risk of losing their case because they are unequipped to argue on their own.
University of Illinois Law School's Professor Robert Lawless, a national expert in personal credit and bankruptcy, showed that, the rate of non-attorney filings in bankruptcy courts by debtors was 13.8% for chapter 13 cases, and 10.1% for chapter 7 cases. The rate was as high as 30% to 45% for major urban areas, such as California and New York city. US Bankruptcy Court of Arizona reported 23.14% cases filed pro se in October 2011, up from 20.61% a year before.[41]
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