A tough economy is no excuse for being unprepared or unfamiliar with the correct legal processes for representing oneself as either a defendant or a plaintiff in legal proceedings in a court of law. While professional legal advice from an experienced attorney is not often free, it is recommended before making the decision to proceed "pro se" or without legal counsel. There are a number of areas in which an individual may choose to represent himself or herself without the aid of an attorney, like small claims court or proceedings related to landlord tenant matters. Because of the economic crisis we are all experiencing, some individuals are making the decision to go it alone because the funds are not readily available to pay an attorney to represent their interest. However, this decision to do it without an attorney may end up costing you more money in the long run because of the unfamiliarity with the process.
Recently, someone came to me for advice after they had already commenced the process of evicting a tenant for non-payment of rent, and fled the complaint with the court, only to learn several days later that they had to re-serve the tenant and re-file the action because the first service was determined to be defective by the court since the tenant had not be given sufficient time in the Notice to Quit Possession. It was short by one day. The re-service and re-filing of the action cost the plaintiff an additional $345.00 dollars. A one-hour consultation with an attorney before the process was started may have cost half of that amount. Not to mention the loss of time and frustration the plaintiff experienced.
Here's the Tip:
Before taking on a legal matter as either a plaintiff or defendant, seek the advise of an experienced professional first before moving forward. Request a consultation even if you have to pay for it. Most attorneys charge by the hour and a lot of information and advise can be given within that time. Consulting with an attorney does not mean you have to retain that attorney to represent you.
It means that you will be in a better position to decide whether you will need to retain an attorney to represent you or you can proceed "pro se" without representation. Such a decision could be the difference between a few hundred dollars or several thousands depending on the type of matter, claims and defenses you can put forth.
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