Pro se – Should I Do it Myself?
Doing It Yourself
Some Things Only A Lawyer Can Do For You (Which You Can Not Do Yourself):
Provide Legal Advice
Anyone can provide you with “advice” — but only a lawyer can provide “legal advice.” What makes legal advice so special? Well, only a licensed lawyer — a trained and licensed professional who is under a duty to act competently, keep what you told him/her and what s/he told you in complete confidence, and is bound to act solely in your interests — can provide you with advice that you can reasonably rely upon as to what the law is, how it applies, and what your legal obligations and alternatives are. Should the lawyer’s advice fail to meet those standards the lawyer would be liable to you for malpractice.
Write a “Lawyer’s Letter” on Your Behalf
If you’re in a difficult situation, or having a dispute with someone, or finding someone hard to deal with, or being recalcitrant, a letter from a lawyer will often get things moving in the way you want. Although it’s not an “official” court document, a lawyer’s letter often solves the problem, without the need to go further.
Receiving a letter from your lawyer demonstrates to your adversary that you are serious, that you’ve gotten professional advice, and that you’ve lined up a lawyer to take matters to the next step if that becomes necessary.
A well-crafted letter from an attorney sends a message that usually gets things moving in the right direction, without the need for you or your lawyer to take that extra step and proceed into a courthouse. Very often receiving a lawyer’s letter is exactly what is needed to get the other side to understand you are serious and prepared to move forward, which gets them off the dime.
Give You Unbiased Advice Without Fear It Will Become Public.
Your confidential conversations with your lawyer, as well as your lawyer’s advice to you, are fully and absolutely protected by attorney client privilege, whether the matter involved is civil or criminal in nature. You can level with the lawyer and outline all the facts without fear that what you share will become known by others.
Your lawyer will be under a sacred and legally recognized duty to keep matters completely confidential, and only you can waive that privilege. (Very few exceptions – such as making the communication to your lawyer in front of non-lawyers, or for purposes of committing a new crime, or disclosing an intent to cause serious physical harm to others — are not be covered by the attorney-client privilege of confidentiality.) The duty of confidentiality bars a lawyer from revealing any confidential information pertaining to any client at any time, regardless of the source, whether inside or outside the courtroom (unless you waive the privilege) and it applies forever, even after a client has died.
Represent You in Court.
Although you theoretically can represent yourself in court, in all but the most minor matters such as a small claims action or a parking ticket, trying to handle things alone is like going into combat against a trained enemy when you are blindfolded. Courts have extremely technical rules as to how and when to proceed, and in every legal matter there are numerous deadlines and procedural requirements, such as for filing papers, making motions, submitting documents, raising objections, etc. Even lawyers who try to represent themselves in matters they are not familiar with are said to have a fool for a lawyer.
Some Things You Can Do Yourself
In Vermont there is small claims court in the civil division of the superior court. The court system has set up various resources and forms to help people handle some relatively simple legal matters on their own. Usually, the type of legal work you can do on your own only involves matters where there is not much at stake financially as there is a $5,000 limit on the amount of money you can recover in small claims court. Check out https://www.vermontjudiciary.org/ for more information.