For many pro se litigants, court decisions can be a confusing array of pitfalls and ragged corners. This is especially true when a simple statement or subtle procedural move on your part could have saved your case. So, if you want the best chance to get it right the first time, be aware of these pitfalls your average lawyer won’t experience.
Your response is due in two days. How long will you stare at that blank page? Writer’s block hits pro se litigants more often than not. There’s anxiety about the case, intimidation from opposing lawyers and fear of presenting your argument at the hearing, all combined with the pressure of a deadline. It’s a wonder we ever get anything filed. Here’s a quick and dirty trick to get past writer’s block when you’re drafting a legal document without legal training.
When you need to represent yourself in court, it can be tempting to simply fill out a legal form and file it. You want to believe the court clerk or lawyer who gave you the form has your best interests at heart, and perhaps they do. But forms are designed to speed up your case, not to help you win.
If you don’t prepare for your day in court, you’re preparing for an ambush. Opposing lawyers want to leapfrog over any issues favorable to you and get a quick win. The judge also wants a quick resolution of the case and will take any shortcuts to get you off the docket. Expect them both to lay traps for a naive pro se litigant.
Having learned the hard way how to prepare for a hearing, here’s my list of do’s.