Why is it that on the last four occasions that I have entered the Court room have I heard the words ‘I don’t understand?’ It may be because the opposing party has failed to seek legal advice either because they feel the cost of a solicitor or barrister is too high or because they would like to take a chance at going it alone.
I would first like to say that there is nothing wrong with representing yourself and there are many organisations that offer free legal advice or that can assist with preparing documents for you if you do wish to represent yourself. It is your right in the interest of justice that your case is heard but not at any cost.
I have recently been watching The People v OJ Simpson: American Crime Story, it was brilliant. I obviously have sympathy for the families who lost their loved ones in the tragic death of Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman however the drama of the American Court system and the arguments constructed on both sides were extremely interesting. We all know the outcome.
I have always wanted to be a lawyer, I am now a trainee solicitor. I have always been fascinated by American legal dramas such as Ally McBeal, The Good Wife, Suits. If you are nodding your head at the names of these TV shows then you probably love them as much as I do. In fact when I tell my friends that I am a trainee solicitor they think that I spend all of my time strutting into Court and saying ‘I object’ to the Judge anytime I hear something that I don’t want to hear! I used to dream about wearing lovely bright coloured suits to court, parading in front of the Judge and the opposing party and disclosing the crucial shred of evidence in my ‘closing speech’.
Well… sorry to disappoint but the English legal system does not work that way. Firstly I find myself mostly dressed in black and grey but that is by the bye, if I attempted to introduce evidence at a hearing immediately before Judgement or shout at the Judge as most of the lawyers do in the legal TV dramas I would automatically receive a verbal slap on the wrist by the Judge or maybe even a harsher punishment. That is not the procedure followed in the English Legal System and this was taught to me at a very early stage in my legal training.
The English Legal System promotes openness. The rules encourage each party to disclose documents and essentially lay their cards on the table at a very early stage in proceedings. If you have not received legal training then it is easy to miss the rules or indications from the Court of what to do at each stage of your claim or in fact if you are defending a claim. I have witnessed openly in Court a type of magic act of one party writing a note on a piece of paper and asking the opposing party to open the paper in a big reveal, needless to say that it was all very strange and the Judge (and opposing party) did not take kindly to being party to the re-enactment of a scene from an American TV drama. This is not a game or a TV show this is reality, and no I am not referring to the reality of Judge Rinder either!
But it is important for litigants in person to receive appropriate legal advice, there are many organisations that offer free legal advice however as part of the QualitySolicitors brand you can obtain advice to see how we can help you.
You can follow the Quality Solicitors three-step guide to getting Free Initial Assessment here.