Serving Skagit,
Island, and
Whatcom Counties
National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
Washington Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
The National Trial Lawyers Top 100

Pro se Litigants: Why You Need to Get an Attorney

A question is asked of many law firms on a routine basis: Why should I get an attorney? Can’t I do it myself?

ABRAHAM LINCOLN said it best: A man who represents himself, has a fool for a client.

Whether a litigant before the court is an experienced attorney, or an individual who has no legal experience, the courts treat both litigants the same. Powers Law Group is a criminal defense firm; we represent those accused of crimes. This means we do not file charges against a person, this is what law enforcement and prosecutors do. In criminal law, the court will appoint a person an attorney if they are charged with a crime. There are limitations based on income but the more serious a crime is, the more likely that a person can be appointed counsel. The simple basis is that if a person may be deprived of their liberty (facing jail time) they have a right to an attorney. It is rare for a litigant to proceed without counsel and represent themselves pro se (Latin for proceeding on your own).

What Happens if the Case Is Not Criminal?

The court treats you as if you were an attorney. The following blurb is from a case that empathizes with Lincoln, making the decision to proceed without a lawyer will be a mistake:

“We note the trial court was under no obligation to grant special favors to Mr. Olson as a pro se litigant, nor is this court. Understandably, as a pro se litigant, Mr. Olson's representation of himself was unskilled. Undoubtedly, an attorney would have made different tactical decisions and more effective use of cross examination. Unfortunately for Mr. Olson, "the law does not distinguish between one who elects to conduct his or her own legal affairs and one who seeks assistance of counsel — both are subject to the same procedural and substantive laws."” In re Marriage of Wherley, 34 Wn. App. 344, 349, 661 P.2d 155, review denied, 100 Wn.2d 1013 (1983).