We strongly recommend that you prepare a trial notebook. A trial notebook is a series of outlines covering matters such as what you must prove (or, if you are a defendant, disprove); the evidence you will use to prove (or disprove) those matters; the topics you intend to cover on direct and cross-examination; a list of the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of your witnesses; and the ­exhibits you plan to introduce into evidence. The notebook serves as your courtroom manager. You can refer to it to make sure that you do not overlook evidence you planned to offer or an argument you intended to make.

When you go into a foreign country and want to communicate with the inhabitants, you have to talk THEIR lingo. Courtrooms are a foreign country and they have their own language. "Complaint language" (or "law talk") is what they call it. If you don't use it in your pleadings (that's what documents you file with the court are), you will not only not be listened to and taken seriously, you will not be HEARD. They will literally not SEE the words on the page if they are not written in their "language."
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.
You might expect lawyers who disrespect their professional colleagues to be even more disrespectful of pro se litigants. If an adversary’s lawyer tries to intimidate you, keep your cool. Look to the judge for help, and don’t try to out-bully a bully. Perhaps realizing that most lawyers and bar associations disavow bullying tactics can help you do so.

Most slander cases settle. This typically occurs before trial, by way of negotiations between you (or your attorney, if you are represented) and the defendant (or his or her attorney, if represented by one). Additionally, a case may settle through some form of alternative dispute resolution, such as mediation or arbitration. Occasionally, although rarely, the case may settle even before the complaint is filed because of a persuasively written demand letter.

Aside from her family appellate matters, Christa has also been successful in small claims. In 2017 Christa brought a pro se complaint against an auto body repair shop after it made faulty repairs to her vehicle. The shop hired an aggressive attorney, but Christa successfully pushed the case to a settlement for the full amount of her claim. Although Christa cannot and will not offer legal advice, she genuinely engages with her clients, is always happy to lend a listening ear and to share her own pro se experiences. Christa encourages her customers to educate themselves of the system and the laws which she believes results in an empowered and confident pro se litigant.  

Late in 2016 NYLAG opened a legal clinic for pro se litigants in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) – one of a handful of federal district courts across the country seeking to make legal assistance available to the large number of civil litigants who come to federal court without an attorney by authorizing and funding an on-site legal clinic.

In order to be eligible for lawsuit funding from Legalist, you must have an attorney representing your case. A case where a plaintiff represents themselves is considered pro se representation. We do not fund "pro se" cases. To be considered for legal funding, you will usually need a retainer agreement with the attorney that is on a contingency basis. However, at Legalist, we do offer a free Find an Attorney service, whereby you can find a lawyer for your case.


When cases go to trial before a judge, there is no reason to insist on formal procedures or evidence rules. The judge should facilitate each side's presentation as is done in small claims court, rather than sit back and make the parties present their cases under arcane rules that take years to master. This approach would not violate due process, because judges would base their decisions on competent and relevant evidence.
Find out what your jurisdiction does. If they don’t have them, it’s worth it to bring your own. If a hearing means anything to you, the money you shell out for a court reporter will pay back in spades. If it’s difficult to pay for a court reporter, try to stretch those hearings out as long as you can. If you’re in a multi-year case, you might have a hearing only 3 times per year anyway. If you find you’re having more and can’t afford it, prioritize them. This also helps you think strategically about your case.
Their rights notwithstanding, pro se litigants create many obstacles for our judicial system as a whole. Indeed, pro se lawsuits are viewed by many as “a type of litigation that’s just riddled with problems on every level.” Lois Bloom, Statement at Pro Se Litigation Panel Discussion, National Workshop for District Judges I (Fed. Judicial Ctr. Mar. 22, 1995). As one commentator has stated,
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Variations Possible.  A form may call for more or less information than a particular court requires.  The fact that a form asks for certain information does not mean that every court or a particular court requires it.  And if the form does not ask for certain information, a particular court might still require it.  Consult the rules and caselaw that govern in the court where you are filing the pleading.
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