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What Is Pro Se Litigation? How Do I Represent Myself in Florida?

Fiol Law Group|Posted in Lawsuits on September 19, 2018

All Florida citizens who enter the courtroom have a right to representation when facing a legal issue, but not all cases may necessitate the help of an attorney. Just as people have a right to representation, they also have the right to represent their own cases in court. Representing yourself in court is called pro se litigation.

When you conduct pro se litigation and fight your own legal battle, you are taking on all aspects of your case. This involves filing the correct documents, meeting deadlines, negotiating with other parties, and serving as your representative in court.

How Do I Represent Myself in Florida?

When you decide to go with pro se litigation, you should first research the laws relevant to your case. This can include state statutes and legal precedents established by case law. Any substantive law related to your case will serve as the backbone of your arguments in court.

Once you understand the relevant laws, and feel confident navigating them in the courtroom, you will want to investigate the relevant procedural laws. This will include what forms you need to file, the acceptable formats, and when you need to notify the other parties. It’s important to confirm the procedural laws you find are ones related to your state and jurisdiction because these laws will vary by location.

The internet can serve as a powerful tool in finding relevant laws and statutes for your case. Many laws and case information are available through the Florida Court website. It’s important for you to confirm the laws you are working with are the latest versions, as statutes can change over time.

You can also receive help from others when working pro se, though there are restrictions. Often, a court clerk may not be able to assist you, but the Pro Se Coordinator can. You also have access to law libraries and their clerks for help with finding information relevant to your case.

Aside from understanding the laws relevant to your situation, part of the complication of choosing pro se litigation lies in preparing the legal documents related to your case. An incorrectly submitted form or one that misses the timeline relevant to your case can put you at a disadvantage, so you may wish to hire a legal document preparer or independent paralegal to ensure you follow correct procedures when filing.

When Not to Choose Pro Se Litigation

Many people interested in pursuing pro se litigation do so because they don’t want to pay attorney’s fees, which can be expensive. In some cases, the resulting compensation may not be worth the cost. Representing yourself may be a reasonable option when a case is straightforward and you understand your legal rights.

Some disputes are more complex and require the assistance of an attorney for the best results. Circumstances for which you may want to avoid pro se litigation include:

  • When the legal issues are unclear
  • Your case includes multiple disputes
  • Large amounts of money are at risk
  • The case could affect your personal freedom
  • The other party has hired an attorney

You should also consider if you feel comfortable representing your own case. Handling your own legal matters often requires organization, attention to detail, and staying cool under pressure. If you feel confident you understand the issues involved in your case, then you can take on the challenge of resolving your own legal dispute; if not, you should retain an attorney.

Conducting some research into your case can help you decide if you’re uncertain about representing yourself. You can also try discussing your case with someone who has relevant legal experience. If you start to file your own case then realize the situation is more complex than you anticipated, you can always seek the help of an attorney while your case is ongoing.