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Should Law Students Try to Represent Themselves in Court?

Depending on your law school professors, you may or may not learn the following legal idiom: A lawyer that represents himself or herself has a fool for a client.

Unless you're filing or defending a small claims action, if you've got a case, representing yourself is a veritable minefield. Everything you do or say can be held against you, and only those things you say under oath can be used to help you. It's tricky. Nevertheless, as a fearless law student, you may be tempted to do so. But you should know that there are so many idioms warning against it that you may want to reconsider. Fortunately, unlike a law person, you may be able to do some of the legal legwork to keep your attorney's fees lower.

A Pro Se Defense Is a Bad Defense

If you're defending yourself in a criminal or civil action, you may want to heed the words of the United States Supreme Court. Self representation puts a party at a significant disadvantage. Even Justice Scalia, who believed that the right to self representation is fundamental, believed it was a bad idea in practice.

Do You Really Know What You're Doing?

For those law students that have received some practical training, it may be tempting to put that training to use. However, keep in mind that a little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing. What you don't know could really come back to haunt you, particularly if your judge somehow becomes apprised of your law student status and decides to be less forgiving than they ordinarily would be for a lay pro se party.

You Can Still Help

One big thing that law students involved in litigation can do to keep their legal fees lower is help out. While interviewing prospective attorneys to take your case, you should inquire as to whether they will allow you to help via researching, drafting pleadings, or performing other tasks that won't expose you to the potential pitfalls of representing yourself.

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