There is a perception that a case can proceed to court without a lawyer in other words proceed in “pro se”. People tend to believe that “no one knows the case better than me” hence why do I need to spend money on a lawyer to “bake the cake for me” Are not I a cook”?
However what people do not understand are all the rules of court and evidence that must be performed and at certain times and in proper form. Do not think that saving money on a “street wise paralegal or legal document examiner (LDE) will somehow do what is necessary and for “half the price”. Again such workers cannot go to court and cannot argue for YOU.
In court the process moves quickly, and the judge often has only a few minutes to hear the argument and if the other side has a lawyer then through experience the focus often appears on “their papers”. Often times it is because those papers are prepared properly with correct citations and in compliance with California Code.
The Law office of Holden Green -A Professional Corporation recommends from client feed back to not even try a traffic ticket :alone”. While these for example seem straight forward there again is a plan of attack available. For example subpoena powers for officers notes and certifications. There is also an opportunity to find a different count that carries no points on ones driving record.
Small Claims Court loss? Well with appeals that again goes before a judge who again has only limited time to hear all the facts and usually roughly half the time as was available to the litigant at stage 1.
If a person has a case in civil court it is recommended that no matter how strong the facts are if a lawyer will not accept it even on a contingency basis it is the experience of this law firm over twelve years to strongly consider whether to proceed . If this situation becomes a reality then the better approach would be to try and negotiate the problem out of court or simply let the matter dissolve away. There are exceptions of course as many individuals are extremely competent and make fantastic “jail house lawyers” but this discussion will be reserved to another day as its own blog.
Now remember that while a person is deciding on whether to file in pro se or not there are still rules running on a clock in the background. For example the statute of limitations or in other words the time frame for when a particular matter must be filed in superior court or the matter becomes moot or unable to be litigated in court as a matter of law because the time to file has “lapsed”; Not sure what to do? Pay the lawyer a consultation fee for one hour and bring a narrative of your facts and say the contract in dispute and get a second qualified experienced opinion. It will be well worth the money.
Remember at the end in many cases the winning side is allowed to collect attorney fees and costs and have been spelled out long ago in the contract or some binding dual signature agreement. Those figures can be very high and especially with an attorney involved, because such parties know how to bill for every minute in the case. Even if a judge only awards half of that amount that figure can be very high.
A TRUE STORY-June 10, 2013
Just last week I received a phone call from a lady who wanted the Law office of Holden Green to help her with a civil appeal in which she lost to a jury “of her peers”. She was a plaintiff who proceeded without a lawyer against a failed real estate transaction. There was also a second matter regarding a fee dispute.
This nice lady went through all the court appearances , filed her complaint and hoped for a quick settlement . and while she tried to settle with the defendant lawyer nothing worked and I believe because she was not taken seriously by her adversary but of course I was not a party to any part of this case.
She was forced to go to a jury tell her story, She put on little or no evidence (while the other side of course “had a binder of evidence which of course was admitted) she said and the jury awarded the lawyer over $200k. She now has a lien against an underwater home for which is her only barrier from being put on the street. The lawyer is ready to collect just as vigorously once of course the 30 days to appeal lapses. This was the reason why she reached out to The Law Offices of Holden Green. She was hoping to buy herself more time and stall something. I would not wish her plight on anyone and felt truly bad for her.
I asked if she went to fee arbitration through the Santa Clara Bar Association to resolve her case that way as the case in controversy involved fees. She had never heard of that.
I asked if she went to his carrier to see if there was some redress there as she believed he did a poor job in handling her former case? No comment besides a “gasp”. I asked her if she hired an expert in real estate (the under lying claim) to help shore up her version of events and to get her evidence in? No Mr. Green. The case took 18 months to reach a jury. I said why a jury? The party said . because I wanted to be heard and a jury would listen to me and like me and the lawyer would settle to avoid a trial. None of these things happened.
This person was a plaintiff. The judge in the case “was a nice man” , but as he must remain impartial had his hands tied most of the time.
In closing do not ever think that a legal matter appears too small or “a slam dunk” to handle it “alone”. The money spent on working out some terms with a lawyer may not mean a win as the facts decide that ultimately , but those facts will be allowed to come forth in a “proper way” and thus get the greatest chance of obtaining a better result or at least minimize the damage in terms of fees should the case not turn out “as it should”.
Only one side can win, but that does not to mean the losing side cannot do its part to minimize the financial exposure available as a remedy as a matter of law.
Many times having a lawyer just for mediation or arbitration can help resolve a case. Often times the lawyer will take a percentage of the settlement leaving no direct out of pocket expense for the client with the exception of fees owed to the mediator or arbitrator. The law firm has helped settle many “pro per” people’s cases in this manner and besides now having an advocate to even up the sides into a “fair fight” the matter can end without more “trauma” of “proceeding on… alone.
For help with a legal matter regardless of the size the Law Offices of Holden Green with three convenient office locations to meet can help decide which direction to proceed. Often times it can be worked out successfully.
Thank-you for reading this entire blog. Sincerely Holden Green Esq.