Does someone who serves as his own lawyer have a fool for a client?  That really depends on how you look at it.  Although the court system can (and is) more than a little intimidating, there are some distinct advantages to representing yourself- advantages that attorneys do not share.

1.  Leeway:  Attorneys can expect little or no forgiveness for screwing up in court- both from their clients or the judge.  In contrast, many judges give pro-se litigants a surprising amount of leeway when it comes to procedural matters (i.e., making motions, citations, objections, etc.).  I’ve even seen judges interrupt a plaintiff’s attorney and encourage the pro-se defendant to object!   Of course, if you keep making the same mistakes, your ability to get a pass from the court will gradually diminish if not disappear.  

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2.  It’s a lose/lose for attorneys:  Attorneys hate representing clients against pro-se litigants.  First, as stated above, pro-se litigants enjoy considerably more leeway when it comes to procedural matters- a frustrating advantage that attorneys cannot share, regardless of how much experience they have.  In addition, having a case against a pro-se litigant often represents a lose/lose proposition for the attorney.  First, their clients and their employers expect them to easily win the case.  If they do, they get little or no credit for it, and if they lose, they lose a lot more than the case.  Their client will be furious and balk at paying the bill, and their employer won’t be very pleased either.  They also risk losing face in front of the court and their peers.  It’s sort of like a schoolyard bully beating up on a seemingly helpless kindergartner.

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3.  Everyone loves an underdog:  When it comes to choosing a jury of your peers, pro-se litigants have a distinct advantage.  Would-be jurors will naturally sympathize with someone just like themselves who is standing up to someone who can afford a slick attorney as a mouthpiece.

Here’s an important note:  don’t rely on these advantages to win your case.  Regardless of how much leeway you get, and how good you are at pleading your case in front of a judge or jury, you will not win if your case is weak.  Even with a strong case, there is no doubt that the odds are stacked against pro-se litigants.  The best way to capitalize on these advantages is to negotiate a reasonable settlement with the other side.