Courts and commentators appear to believe these reforms are effective. Chief judges and clerks of courts were asked in the FJC Survey about the most effective measures for helping nonprisoner pro se litigants. Tables 1.1 and 1.2, reproduced from the FJC Survey below, show that both clerks’ offices and chief judges at district courts believe measures like those discussed above are effective at improving outcomes for nonprisoner pro se litigants.68
Having said that, lawyers are trained and experienced in the fields of their practice. In litigation, a lawyer will know the rules of procedure, how things are customarily done in the particular court, the substantive laws that apply to the case, and appellate rulings that may be applicable. Lawyers also have the advantage of being able to give their clients an outside look at the case (clients usually are overly confident that they are correct and that they judge/jury will believe everything that they say and nothing that the other party says). And lawyers are usually much more skilled at negotiating settlements and have the benefit of experience to guide them on fair value of the case.
When lawyers provide substandard representation, unhappy clients can seek relief from state disciplinary authorities and legal malpractice lawsuits. But a pro se litigant’s ability to fix mistakes made by online websites and non-lawyer advisers is much more limited. And the risk of getting inaccurate information may increase when pro se litigants communicate with online businesses in writing, rather than with lawyers in face-to-face meetings.
I am an Arizona attorney. AVVO does not pay us for our responses. Simply because I responded to your question does not mean I am your attorney. In Arizona a non-lawyer is held to the same standards as an attorney so there are dangers to representing yourself. This is for informational purposes only and should not be considered as legal advice. If you require legal assistance an in depth discussion of your case is needed as there are many other issues to consider such as defenses, statute of limitations, etc.
We’re pro se litigants, and we talk to other pro se litigants all day every day, probably more than any lawyer does. I can tell you no one needs to “pit” pro se’s against lawyers; you guys have that covered. Perhaps if you all would take more seriously your obligation to deliver access to justice, we wouldn’t need to stand in for you. Thanks again for the comment.
Hourly rates for lawyers who do personal legal-services work typically run from $100 to $250 per hour. Certain experts and big-firm lawyers charge even more. It is important to find out exactly how the lawyer will calculate the bill. For example, some lawyers who charge by the hour bill in minimum increments of 15 minutes (quarter hour), and others bill in increments of six minutes (tenth of an hour). That means that a five-minute phone conversation for which you are billed the minimum amount could cost you different amounts, depending on how the lawyer figures the bill.
Table 3A suggests that the various policies used to assist pro se litigants in federal district courts have not substantially affected win rates for pro se plaintiffs. When both parties are represented, plaintiff win rates gravitate around 50 percent. When only the plaintiff is pro se, the plaintiff win rate hovers between 2 and 5 percent. All of the policies registered in the FJC Survey classified as “programs and procedures to assist pro se litigants”—the types of policies discussed throughout this
What to do? Here are 10 suggestions for reforming the way courts deal with self represented individuals. A few are already being implemented (usually hesitantly and on a small scale) here and there by isolated courts. And there has been one truly magnificent effort, by the Family Law Division of the Superior Court for Maricopa County, Arizona to throw open court procedures to non-lawyers. For the most part, the suggestions set out here require not money but changes in attitude, rules and procedures.
The primary dataset used in this Comment consists of administrative records of civil cases filed in federal district courts, which are collected and published by the Administrative Office of the United States Courts (AO).76 The AO dataset includes the district court in which the case was filed, the docket number of each case, the date on which the case was filed, the nature of the suit, the procedural progress of the case at the time the case was disposed of, the manner in which the case was disposed of, the party that the final judgment of the case was in favor of, and whether the plaintiff or the defendant was a pro se party.77
Oh my Lord Sonja, you’re my new hero! I went at it with an attorney on Avvo; I asked a legal question and he more or less belittled me for thinking that I had a case and then for thinking that I could actually handle it on my own. This guy was a real jerk! l know I have a winning case but there are not many lawyers in my area that are familiar enough with the statutes to take it pro bono and therefore take the risk. Even the legal opinions that I’ve read say the case law is sparse. Thank you for standing up for pro se litigants and setting the record straight.
Strickland v. Washington (1984) Nix v. Whiteside (1986) Lockhart v. Fretwell (1993) Williams v. Taylor (2000) Glover v. United States (2001) Bell v. Cone (2002) Woodford v. Visciotti (2002) Wiggins v. Smith (2003) Holland v. Jackson (2004) Wright v. Van Patten (2008) Bobby v. Van Hook (2009) Wong v. Belmontes (2009) Porter v. McCollum (2009) Padilla v. Kentucky (2010) Sears v. Upton (2010) Premo v. Moore (2011) Lafler v. Cooper (2012) Buck v. Davis (2017)
Overall, the analysis in this Section suggests that, though many federal district courts have implemented reforms aimed at improving case outcomes for pro se litigants, they have not yet succeeded in improving those outcomes. Tables 3A and 3B suggest that a variety of policies, each implemented in a substantial number of district courts, have all been ineffective in improving case outcomes for pro se litigants. Similarly, the evidence suggests that even courts that have implemented multiple or many of these policies have not improved outcomes for pro se litigants thus far. Despite the belief expressed by clerks’ offices and chief judges of federal district courts, commentators, and the Supreme Court that these types of measures are effective, the empirical evidence suggests that these measures make no difference in case outcomes.115
The United States District Court for the District of Idaho have prepared this handbook specifically for the person who has chosen, for whatever reason, to represent himself/herself as a party to a lawsuit: the pro se litigant. The purpose of this handbook is to provide the pro se litigant with a practical and informative initial resource that will assist in the decision-making process and in the filing of a lawsuit when choosing not to retain the aid of a licensed attorney...
A court hearing is usually a short and narrowly defined proceeding in which you are not entitled to a jury. A judge conducts the hearing and makes a ruling. Depending on the kind of dispute you’re facing, you may find yourself in a hearing rather than a trial. For example, you’ll probably have a hearing if you are seeking an increase or a decrease in spousal or child support following your divorce or if you need to prove how much money you are entitled to after a defendant has failed to respond to your claims. This book’s advice is as pertinent to hearings as it is to trials. Many of the courtroom procedures and rules of evidence are exactly the same in a hearing as in a trial. And you still must offer evidence in a way that persuades the judge or hearing officer to rule in your favor.
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.
Next, Table 2F compares the probability of a plaintiff winning when both parties are represented to the probability of a plaintiff winning when the plaintiff is represented but the defendant is a pro se defendant. In the column, “Def Rep’d / Def Pro Se,” the number 0.5 would mean that plaintiffs win half as often when both parties are represented as compared to cases in which the defendant is pro se. The lower the number, the better represented litigants fare relative to pro se litigants.88
Proponents and detractors within the civil Gideon debate disagree on how effective civil Gideon would be in improving case outcomes for pro se litigants. One reason for this is that commentators disagree about how effective Gideon itself has been at improving case outcomes for criminal defendants.50 Many of the reasons commonly given for the failure of Gideon, such as the political difficulty of allocating sufficient resources to defense lawyers and the high bar for claiming ineffective assistance of counsel, would likely apply with equal or greater force in the context of civil Gideon.51
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.
The challenges presented by the large volume of pro se cases in federal district courts may require meaningful changes to achieve a full resolution. In order to make headway on that front, reformers must properly contextualize and understand the nature of pro se litigation in those courts and evaluate the successes and failures of efforts that have been undertaken thus far.
Many years ago, after winning a motion, an older judge asked me to stay behind after the parties left. He took me aside and said simply: "I want you to know that the case before yours today was to protect a little girl who's grandfather thinks it's fun to extinguish cigars on her legs." I knew what he wanted me to know, and I never forgot. Other people's cases are serious, too.
Department of Social Services,37 the appellant argued that failing to provide counsel in a civil suit that would terminate parental rights violated the Due Process Clause.38 A 5–4 majority on the Supreme Court held that there was no general right to appointment of counsel in parental termination proceedings despite the importance of the right involved. The Court explained that a
Examples Only. The forms do not try to address or cover all the different types of claims or defenses, or how specific facts might affect a particular claim or defense. Some of the forms, such as the form for a generic complaint, apply to different types of cases. Others apply only to specific types of cases. Be careful to use the form that fits your case and the type of pleading you want to file. Be careful to change the information the form asks for to fit the facts and circumstances of your case.