The short answer to this question is – yes.

By law, you have the right to represent yourself in court for civil cases, family law cases and tribunals, without the help of a litigation solicitor. It’s called being a ‘litigant in person’.

But perhaps the question you should be asking is, would it be a good idea?

According to a high court judge in a recent civil litigation case, the answer then is – absolutely not.

The Greenwoods – a bad example of a litigant in person

Law is not a game.

Five small words, spoken by Judge Paul Matthews, that say it all.

Back in 2021, John and Jennifer Greenwood started civil litigation proceedings – making a statutory demand for £1.4m over a business dispute. But as litigants in person, they made a catalogue of mistakes – which have, ultimately, jeopardised the success of their claim.

The case was initially set aside in September 2021 and the judge ordered them to pay £4680 in costs – however, these costs were never paid. They were subsequently asked to provide a full transcript and a service address in the UK – but neither requirement was ever met.

In 2022, they then made an application for an order to ‘set aside the claim’ and paid a £275 court fee; a move which made zero sense, considering they were the ones making the claim. The judges presumed this mistake was due to their lack of understanding of the legal terminology.

Judge Paul Matthews commented on the matter, saying:

 “The law is not a game, and it involves both emotional and financial costs. So far, it seems that the lack of legal advice has cost them dear. At the end of the day, it is a matter for them. I cannot make them follow the rules. But, if they do not, they must accept the consequences”.

He has now given the Greenwoods ‘one last chance’ to comply with court rules, otherwise they risk their claim being struck out automatically. And he’s urged the self-represented pair to obtain professional ‘civil litigation’ advice if they wish to keep their case alive.

The importance of seeking legal advice on civil litigation

Of course it’s tempting – especially in the current financial climate – to save money on legal fees, by doing some online research and representing yourself in court. But one of the biggest mistakes people make when it comes to legal issues, is thinking they can handle it themselves.

The result of a civil or family court case can have a significant impact on some of the most important aspects of your life, such as your business, your finances, housing arrangements, the future of your children etc. And the fact is, there are many benefits to seeking the advice of a dispute resolution or litigation solicitor (and many risks in not doing so).

Let’s take a look at some of the main advantages.

  • It’s the financially savvy route

Bypassing legal advice may save you a few pounds in the short term – but you need to look at the bigger picture. Litigation solicitors are skilled negotiators. They have the experience and knowledge to ask the right questions, identify the key issues and determine the best way to present your case.

Plus, they attempt to avoid the courtroom wherever possible.

As a result, a favourable agreement or settlement can usually be reached much quicker – saving you both time and money in the long term.

  • A solicitor will know all the rules and regs

Law is complex and constantly evolving.

There are strict procedures that must be followed – which, as a layperson, you’re highly unlikely to be familiar with. Information found online is not always accurate. And the judge certainly won’t give you a free pass just because you don’t have the relevant experience or knowledge.

Failure to comply with court rules can not only lead to significant cost orders, but may also affect the outcome of your case and risk having it ‘struck out’. Just like the Greenwoods.

To give yourself the best possible chance of success – and maintain the rules and decorum of the courtroom – the safest option is to recruit the help of a specialist litigation solicitor. Someone who is familiar with the current law, including all the legal terms and elements that could impact your case, and will ensure everything is done by the book.

  • You’ll have a greater chance of success

Statistics show that litigants in person typically lose.

There are a couple of reasons for this.

Firstly, civil and family law cases are inherently emotional. The case directly impacts you and your life, and a lot could be at stake. Which means, it’s very easy to become overwhelmed. You’re unlikely to be in the right headspace to objectively represent yourself in the courtroom.

Secondly, the opposing party will almost certainly be led by a specialist legal professional. Someone with far more knowledge and expertise in the law than you, and with the relevant skills to put forward a strong counterclaim. Therefore, by not having legal support of your own, you’re automatically putting yourself at a disadvantage.

Litigation solicitors may be passionate about the work they do, but they’re able to control their emotions and focus on the facts. They have many years of experience dealing with other solicitors and judges, and will have plenty of strategies up their sleeve – to advise on the most effective ways to handle your case and ensure you get the best possible outcome.

Civil litigation court

Think twice about DIY civil litigation

Generally speaking, representing yourself in court is rarely a good idea.

If you’re about to embark on a civil litigation case, nine times out of ten, the best option is to seek the assistance of a litigation solicitor – and here at St Helens Law, we’re always happy to help.

Our specialist team have many years of experience in litigation and dispute resolution, having represented a wide range of clients in a variety of civil and family law cases.

Using our in-depth knowledge and insight into this area of the law, we can help you reach a favourable agreement – often avoiding the courtroom entirely by using alternative dispute resolution techniques. But if court is necessary, we also have the relevant expertise to comply with the rules and regulations and give your case the maximum chance of success.

An initial consultation is available completely free of charge. So before you commit to being a litigant in person – and all the obstacles that entails – where’s the harm in getting in touch?

To arrange a date and time that works for you, simply fill out our online enquiry form and a member of the team will respond as soon as possible. Or, if you have any questions and wish to chat with one of our litigation or dispute resolution solicitors, you’re welcome to contact us at any time.

Just give us a call on 01744 742360.