You might not be a lawyer, but there’s something romantic about the notion of representing yourself in court. To deliver a passionate argument for your innocence or deservingness to win a case and move the entire courtroom to tears is fun to imagine, but it’s not at all practical. These reasons will help you understand why being your own lawyer can be automatically ruled as a bad decision.
Legal Knowledge is Key
You are not a lawyer, and even if you were, you should not represent yourself. Being a lawyer involves lots of work, not only to earn a law degree but also to work on every single case. Lawyers have law firms full of associates because it’s far too much work for just one person to handle. Even an appeal requires a written brief that depends heavily on an understanding of the law. You’re simply not meant to try to be something you’re not, especially not when in such a serious scenario.
You Don’t Know the Rules
To be a good lawyer, you have to understand the policies of a courtroom. Even seasoned lawyers can find themselves guilty of slipping and be reprimanded by the judge. There will be no sympathy for breaking the courtroom procedure by doing things like using hearsay as evidence or improperly addressing witnesses. If you’ve made the decision to represent yourself, any fallout that comes from that must be accepted. Trying to keep track of all the rules will present you as an inexperienced person that you are and make it hard for the jury to side with you.
You Need to Know Both Sides
Having full confidence in your innocence means nothing to the jury and can taint your chances of winning your case. A lawyer is not unlike a football coach. They have to focus not only on their moves but also those of the opposition. Your overwhelming bias for your side of the case will overshadow your perception of arguments the other side might make. You need to come prepared not only with arguments for yourself but also rebuttals for the opposition. Lawyers specialize in this, so you shouldn’t try to do their job.
Forget what you’ve seen in movies or stories that you’ve heard about people successfully representing themselves. The reason why we have lawyers is so that we can leave legal strategizing to them. It’s impractical and disrespectful to the legal profession to act as though you can just moonlight as a lawyer. You have a constitutional right to an attorney, but that doesn’t mean you should try to assume the role.
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