Five reasons why the law is not a DIY project

If there comes a time when you need to attend court, there might be an evil voice in your head that says “don’t hire a solicitor, you can do this,” because you’ve seen a few movies that feature legal battles.

Five reasons why the law is not a DIY project

Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird – leave court to the professionals

But alas, in real life, that’s just not how the cookie crumbles. You can’t learn the intricacies of open heart surgery by watching Scrubs, just as you can’t practice law after watching a few episodes of Rumpole of the Bailey.

Here are five reasons to resist the temptation to represent your own interest in court:

1. High profile failures

What do Saddam Hussein, Slobodan Milosevic and Heather Mills share? While all kinds of impolite answers might spring to mind, the correct one is that they have all been a litigant-in-person: someone who has foregone legal representation in favour of winging it. None of them worked out too well: while Mills secured £14m plus £2.5m to buy a house in London, she had been aiming for £125m.

2. Tommy Sheridan v The World

In 2006, Scottish politician Tommy Sheridan sacked his legal team during a defamation case he had brought against now-defunct tabloid the News of the World. He won.

He was tried for perjury in 2010 and he decided again to act on his own behalf, seen as a brave move but typical of his unconventional personality… But this time, he lost.

3. Lawyers are smart cookies

Many barristers are educated in the most respected universities in the world who have worked incredibly hard to get where they are in a competitive environment. They are trained in legal jargon, know all the loopholes and have the resources at hand to do the right research.

They also have practise on the public speaking side, are familiar with court processes and have the added advantage of not having an emotional investment in the outcome.

4. The judge is not on your side

It’s a sweet but unlikely delusion that a judge will be charmed by an amateur advocate’s endearing lack of knowledge. Judges must be impartial and judge only according to the law.

When weighing up your decision, remember that your opposition will always have one question up their sleeve that will make any amateur Atticus Finch look like a bit of a turkey:

“Do you have a law qualification?”

Vivienne Egan writes for Thomson Local who provide listings of local solicitors.

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