Seasoned Trial Lawyers in Oklahoma and Arkansas

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Why shouldn’t you represent yourself?

While virtually everyone agrees that it’s a bad idea to go solo, it’s sometimes hard to say why. And lawyer opinions about the issue seem self-serving. “Hire us instead!” is what many people hear. Again, why?

Generally, the best reason most people have against representing yourself is that it’s so difficult to think objectively when you are the one with money or liberty at stake. The idea is that a professional advisor and advocate can think critically and run the traps necessary to make a solid case for you as a client.

A better reason to hire a lawyer is this: you’re already representing yourself. Even with a team of lawyers, you have to be “on” the whole time your case is going on. You can’t take a minute off. A lawyer can do a lot, but ultimately only so much, because so much of the case is fact-dependent and based on you, how you behave, what you say, and the positions you took before the case and the positions you take during the case. You already have to spend so much time and energy being at your best under the limelight and the harsh scrutiny and criticism of court appearances and depositions. You have bring your “A game.” You have to keep a straight face while the other side and their lawyer literally trash-talk you to your lawyer and to the judge — in front of you, to your face — and ask you wild questions in hearings and depositions and at trial. You have to keep a straight face even when the judge takes a cheap shot at you or your case while looking you in the eyes and daring you to talk back. You need all the help you can get. You need someone in your corner. You need an add-on. It helps that the system says that a person has to have a certain level of education and pass a test to be there for you. It really helps if that person, your lawyer, actually cares about your type of case and constantly studies and educates themselves on the law and at trial schools. If you choose not to have a lawyer, you will be truly alone, no matter what type of family support you may have.

Another reason you shouldn’t represent yourself is that you are so blind, due to human cognitive biases and your stake in the outcome, that it is impossible for you to realize oversights and omissions until it is too late. Most pro se litigants don’t understand that property and debt division orders are FINAL. No take-backs. And even when the right idea is there, most pro se litigants don’t know how to build in a remedy for various scenarios. We have a very active practice trying to fix situations where pro se litigants and other lawyers build a refinance requirement into a consent decree but don’t contemplate any consequences if the refinance doesn’t happen for any reason. Put another way, we lawyers are humans too, and thus make mistakes, but you should be able to assume that the baseline for drafting and troubleshooting is much higher when you have a professional specialist working with your interests in mind.