Tips on How to Represent Yourself in Court

You have decided to represent yourself in court. You need to know how to do it. Here are some tips on how to represent yourself in court that may prove to be beneficial for you.

Tip #1: Dress for Success

I am sure you have heard about the importance of dressing for success in the work place. You must also do that in the court room. Judges and jurors make first impressions based on how you look and present yourself. Keep that in mind when you are in the court room. The proper attire for a man or woman is business attire, such as a suit. If you don’t have a suit, a blazer or sports jacket with slacks, dress shirt and tie for a man and for a woman conservative business attire.

Tip #2: Confidence

Now that you are dressed for success it is important that you are confident with your case. A confident person is more persuasive then one who is not. Confidence gives a judge and juror the sense that you must be correct in your statements and arguments. Remember there is a difference between confidence and arrogance. Confidence can win you a case; arrogance can lose one. So, take a deep breath and walk in to the court room like you own it.

Tip #3: The Introduction

The first step in a trial or hearing is the introduction. State your name, indicate if you are the claimant or defendant. If you are in a hearing and it is your application then you would state the order or orders you would like from the court.

Tip #4: the Opening Statement

How you do an opening statement will depend on the type of case. Is your case a criminal or civil one, is it a trial or hearing, is it in front of a judge and jury or a judge alone, are you the plaintiff or defendant? Here are some general guidelines:

In a Hearing

In a hearing there is typically not an opening statement. Rather the Plaintiff or Claimant will begin presenting their case to the judge. As a Plaintiff you would begin with some background information, developing the context on why you are making the application to the court. You would then move on to the relevant facts. State each fact and refer to the evidence supporting that fact. Cite a relevant law or case that supports your argument, and then make the argument. Do this in a historical and systematic way, building to your conclusion why the court should grant the orders requested.

For example:

Fact

On December 12, 2013 I received an email from the defendant stating her agreement to perform the services for the sum of $200.

Evidence

Attached as exhibit A is a copy of an email sent by the defendant dated December 12, 2013 stating “I agree to supply services for $200.”

Law

According to the case of John Doe v. Jane Doe the honorable justice Smith states that “an email conformation agreeing to the terms and price of a contract is binding on the sender of the email.”

Argument

In this case the defendant sent an email confirming the agreed upon price for the services of $200 which constitutes a binding contract and as such the defendant must supply the services for the price of $200.

It is important that you prepare your statement in advance, this way you can fine tune exactly what you want to say. You should set out your submission in written form as described above. You should make copies for the judge so he or she can follow along and refer to it in their chambers if necessary. Also, make sure all your evidence and law is in a binder with tabs making it easier for you to organize yourself. Again it is important to provide copies of your binder to make it easier for the judge to follow along. Copies of the law should also be provided to the opposing party. Organization is crucial when speaking at a hearing. This also is important for the opposing party as well. Also by providing the judge with your submissions should the judge require time to make a decision he or she has your submissions to refer to.

If you are the defendant or respondent in a hearing you would lay out the facts as described above referring to evidence, law and argument. You will also respond to the argument provided by the other party. It is important that you anticipate the other side’s response to your argument as you may not get another opportunity to speak. The party making the application will then have the opportunity to respond to your arguments. Anticipation of each other’s arguments is crucial in any court action. So, do your research not just on facts and law that support your case, but also ones that do not help your case. Prepare as though you are able to argue both sides. This is necessary to understand the weaknesses of your case and how to overcome them.

In a Trial

In a trial you would start by providing your opening statement. The opening statement is crucial as it provides you with the first opportunity to persuade the judge or juror. It should never be overlooked or waived.

The opening statement should provide a road map of your case and how it will unfold during the trial. it will outline basic facts introducing the dispute to the judge and jury. It will describe the evidence and introduce the witnesses and what they are expected to say. It should tell a story and end with a major point.

The opening statement should be prepared in advance and rehearsed to ensure it comes across to the judge and jury as desired. Your opening statement is important and should not be taken lightly.

These are only a few of many tip on how to represent yourself in court. For more tips and tricks please read the articles 6 Techniques Lawyers use to persuade Judges & Jurors and Secret Ways Top Lawyers Prepare for Court.

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