If you’re considering unbundled legal services, shop for your attorney with the same care as you would if you were hiring a lawyer to handle your entire case. That is, you need to investigate a lawyer’s qualifications, competence, and diligence. You also have to consider the cost of unbundled services, including the lawyer’s fee and additional expenses, such as fees for paralegals, investigators, and experts.
Settle! Of course, given the unique obstacles involved with litigating against a pro se party—including the absence of the important buffer between the party and his or her emotions and, more times than not, unreasonable expectations—the key to trial success may be avoiding trial altogether! To that end, early alternative dispute resolution proceedings can be exceedingly beneficial. A neutral third party can often insert reasonableness otherwise lacking into the pro se party’s view of the strengths and weaknesses of the case.
Some still remain skeptical about pro se reform. Commentators have argued that unfair advantages for pro se litigants correspond to unfair disadvantages for their opponents in civil proceedings, that tweaking the court system specifically for pro se litigants undermines the rule of law, and that reforms may lead courts to devote more resources to cases that often prove frivolous.61 Other detractors of trial-court reform for pro se litigants have opposed it on opposite grounds, arguing that these reforms may be counterproductive and harm pro se litigants62 or that they don’t go far enough and that civil Gideon is needed to fully protect the rights of pro se litigants.63
Now in its second year, the SDNY Legal Clinic for Pro Se Litigants has successfully assisted hundreds of litigants in a range of cases including employment discrimination, civil rights, intellectual property and more. In many instances, cases that do not belong in the SDNY are diverted to another more appropriate venue, such as Family Court or Housing Court – saving litigants time and anxiety and sparing the court’s limited resources.
Narrow exceptions to this principle have also been suggested by other courts in the United States. For example, according to one district court a state-licensed attorney who is acting as pro se may collect attorney's fees when he represents a class (of which he is a member) in a class action lawsuit, or according to another court represents a law firm of which he is a member. In each of those instances, a non-attorney would be barred from conducting the representation altogether. One district court found that this policy does not prevent a pro se attorney from recovering fees paid for consultations with outside counsel. Pro se who are not state-licensed attorneys cannot bring up a class action lawsuit.
Defendants who choose to appear pro se may do so because they believe they may gain tactical advantages against the prosecutor, such as obtaining sympathy from the jury, the opportunity to personally address the jury and witnesses. Pro se appearances may also delay the trial proceedings and enhance the possibility of a mistrial and a subsequent appeal.
Commentators have seen Turner as a complete rejection of civil Gideon, effectively foreclosing the possibility of an expanded right to counsel in civil litigation, at least for the foreseeable future.44 However, commentators have also seen the holding in Turner—that due process requires trial courts to protect pro se litigants’ rights via procedural safeguards—as a nod toward a new and potentially more fruitful approach to pro se litigation: reforms in trial courts.45
Filing of complaints, appearance, issuance of summonses, and procedures for collection, garnishments, citations, attachments, and the like, require the parties to pay fees and/or other "court cost". The Judge will generally order the party who loses to pay the "court costs". The defendant may have to pay plaintiff interest on the unpaid judgment at the statutory rate.
This Part discusses trends in civil pro se litigation in federal district courts. It examines several important characteristics of pro se litigation: the volume, typical outcomes, and typical types of suits brought by pro se litigants. It then describes some implications of this data and thus helps contextualize the empirical analyses of pro se reforms that Parts III and IV present.
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.
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
Under New York Rule of Professional Conduct 1.2, as part of getting informed client consent, lawyers must disclose the reasonably foreseeable consequences of limiting the scope of representation. If it’s reasonably foreseeable that during the course of representation, additional legal services may be necessary, limited-scope lawyers must tell clients that they may need to hire separate counsel, which could result in delay, additional expense, and complications.
113. But note that represented litigants in courts that have implemented these reforms also win cases 8 or 9 percent more frequently than they lose cases, so it’s plausible that the courts that have implemented those reforms are just more plaintiff-friendly (or typically handle cases that favor plaintiffs) or that these differences reflect more noise than signal. See Table 3A.
The Supreme Court noted that "[i]n the federal courts, the right of self-representation has been protected by statute since the beginnings of our Nation. Section 35 of the Judiciary Act of 1789, 1 Stat. 73, 92, enacted by the First Congress and signed by President Washington one day before the Sixth Amendment was proposed, provided that 'in all the courts of the United States, the parties may plead and manage their own causes personally or by the assistance of counsel.'"