There are some court cases where an attorney might not be needed. This completely depends on the nature of the complaint and the court system. It is common for people to represent themselves in civil cases or small claims court. Making the decision to represent yourself is not for the faint of heart and should be done through careful consideration confirms an expert at the Law Office of Matthew L. Sharp. If you find yourself in a position where you will be presenting your own case, here is what you can do to prepare yourself.
Carefully Read the Complaint
If you are the person that filed the complaint, you will be known as the plaintiff. If you are having to defend yourself from a complaint, you are known as the defendant. You should carefully read and reread the complaint to know exactly what the case is looking to resolve. The judge presiding over the case will have the complaint document in front of him and her, and throughout the case, the judge will be looking for an explanation for anything that has been noted or alleged in the complaint. Whether you will be coming before a county judge like Judge Michael Tawil or you will be presenting your case before a small claims court scenario like seen on Judge Judy episodes, your job (depending on your position) will be to either prove or disprove the complaint’s allegations. In order to have this happen effectively, ask yourself the following questions.
- How can I find documents or witnesses that can help prove or disprove the statements?
- Has anything happened since the original incident that is relevant to the case? (Additional damages, mediation attempts, or partial payments)
- Are there are details or facts about the incident missing from the complaint?
Find Relevant Paperwork
Whatever paperwork you can find relating to the facts of the case will be important. If a contract had existed between you and the other party, make sure you read and it has the key items highlighted for easy reference. Depending on what resolution you seek, there may be a burden of proof to show legal areas for why the contract must be enforced or dissolved. Print off any emails or communication between you and the party. Have copies of any payments or attempts to collect payment. Use this information or proof to formulate your argument.
Analyze the Soundness of Your Case
Depending on who you are in the case, you need to make sure that your documentation or evidence will do what it needs to prove or disprove your position. Start by looking at the strengths and weaknesses of the case. Is your evidence going to be enough to convince the judge? List each area that you have to prove and then the steps or material that you will use to support each item. If you are the defendant, look at the areas that will be charged against you and the potential evidence that may be used in support. Consider any weaknesses in the story or the evidence and write down how you can exploit or expose them to weaken the plaintiff’s case. In light of these assessments, ask yourself if it may be worth trying to reach a settlement out of court.
Prepare for the Trial
Your trial preparation means gathering all the documents and evidence you need for your day in court. Interview any witnesses and have them ready to appear with you on your court date. Highlight the key points of your argument for easy reference. Be calm, organized, and professional. Though you may not be a lawyer, your attention to detail and thorough preparation will be beneficial as the judge hears your case.