Why does someone need an attorney when they can just defend themselves in court (pro se)?
Why does someone need an attorney when they can just defend themselves in court?
It really depends on how you define “need” here.
First, understand that no litigant (except a litigant in certain circumstances who is determined to be mentally incapacitated or disabled, in which case the court may appoint an attorney for such a litigant) is required or can be forced to have be represented by an attorney.
This means you cannot be forced to hire an attorney, you cannot be forced to have an attorney appointed for you in criminal cases, even if you qualify for an attorney to be appointed for you.
So, there is no legal mandate that you be represented by an attorney, no “need” to be represented by an attorney in that sense. You won’t be arrested or fined for not being represented by an attorney.
So, from the foregoing we see that you have the absolute right (with the exception of disability/incapacity) to represent yourself in court (that’s known as proceeding “pro se”, which is Latin for “for oneself”).
If, however, prevailing in the litigation is your sole or primary objective, and if you are not well-versed/skilled/confident regarding the law and court procedures, you may determine that you cannot win without an attorney. In that respect, you may determine that you “need” an attorney. In this sense, most people need an attorney. You may have heard the old saw, “A man who represents himself, has a fool for a client.” Abraham Lincoln is reputed to have put it this way: “He who serves as his own counsel has a fool for a lawyer and a jackass for a client.” The reason this is true is because the legal system is not as simple, as non-dysfunctional (sorry, I know that’s a clunky term, but I cannot think of a clearer way to make my point, or as fair as you believe or want to believe. A lawyer is not only helpful for his/her knowledge of the law and court procedures, but also for his/her experience and ability to guide you down the dark, twisted, uphill, rocky, often counterintuitive and dangerous path that is the legal system.
If the stakes are such that you don’t mind bearing the consequences of losing the case (in other words, you can afford to pay and don’t mind paying the fine(s) and/or don’t mind doing the time in jail/prison), then it’s likely you don’t “need” an attorney; otherwise, a prudent litigant needs an attorney.
Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277