The do-it-yourself wave has hit the legal system. Nationwide, family courts are seeing an increase in self-represented, or “pro se,” litigants. Whether by need or by desire, a great number of potential clients are now electing to represent themselves in family matters. While self-represented clients may seem to represent a threat to the legal profession’s pecuniary interests, it is important to treat these litigants with respect and empathy.
To an outsider, the legal process is confusing and scary. Self-represented parties often feel powerless in a system that is designed for specialists. Remember that for many people, self-representation is not a choice—it is a necessity. While lawyers must zealously advocate for their clients, it is possible to proactively work with a self- represented litigant to avoid roadblocks to settlement and trial.
Despite a lawyer’s best efforts, however, settlement is not always possible. When trial is on the immediate horizon, the differences between a lawyer and a self- represented party become magnified. Yet, it is possible to maintain order and sanity when preparing for a trial against a self-represented party.
As you work towards a resolution, keep these ways of resolving roadblocks in mind.