Today, I attended a hearing to defend a physician’s rights in a matter totally unrelated to the practice of medicine. The plaintiff had improperly (more like incorrectly) identified my client and really it should have been someone else. My involvement in identifying the legal discrepancies resulted in a voluntary dismissal for my client. Great win for my client.
What struck me though was the number of individuals who had arrived at court to represent themselves. They were defendants in legal matters that would result in significant penalties, displacement from their homes, fees for the opposing attorney and more. The pro se defendants had taken off time from work, come to an otherwise unfamiliar civil courthouse, trying to interpret legal motions and contractual language that had far-reaching implications. As I listened to them plead their side, argue their cases, beg for leniency, I found myself wondering whether our do-it-yourself mentality was best for this project.
Some will undoubtedly argue that my client could afford my services and there are thousands of others who simply could not. I am indeed grateful and honored that my client chose my firm to handle this matter. My client, however, could have chosen the DIY approach. In practical terms, hiring me saved my client time (did not have to take off from work), energy (not everyone wants to argue), headache (trying to interpret the law) and frustration (trying to understand why everyone doesn’t see things his way). I recognize that limited resources (money, time and energy) may require some to take the DIY approach. For those individuals, I truly empathize. For the courthouse is not a place to try to re-do your mistakes. For those, however, who believe that anyone can go argue their own case, justice is lost. There is a huge benefit to hiring someone who has been trained to not only see the obvious problems (directly in front of you) but the ones around the corner (which have yet to make themselves known).
DIY at the courthouse, perhaps only when absolutely necessary. What do you think?