Tips for Representing Yourself in Court

Small claims court is a unique court where matters are resolved quickly and inexpensively. In this type of court, attorneys are typically not allowed. The person filing the claim is called the plaintiff and the person whom the claim is being filed against is called the defendant. This section assumes that you have brought the lawsuit and that you are the plaintiff.

Here is a list of several helpful preparation hints:

  1. Organize your arguments before court. Have either an outline or a written version of the story. Practice it several times in front of a mirror and perhaps with an audience to see how it sounds. Try to avoid reading a word for word script as the judge will expect you to simply tell him/her what happened.
  2. Organize your evidence and exhibits. Present these to the judge in some logical order and even you get sidetracked by a question or nervousness, make sure you present all of evidence before the judge as this will increase your chances of winning your case. Stand when addressing the court. The judge will know you respect him/her when you stand.
  3. Address all of your comments to the judge and not to the other party. Do not engage in any conversations with the other party in open court, as that is the fastest way to draw the judge's wrath.
  4. Don't worry about being nervous. Almost all participants in the court system are nervous. You have just as good of a chance of winning if you are nervous and cannot speak as well as the other party. It depends on your facts and evidence, not on how much you are shaking from nervousness.
  5. Always wear appropriate clothing. Just as many studies indicate that criminals who wear suits get less jail time, so too, can your attire affect the outcome of your case.

If you need any help preparing your small claims court case, feel free to contact member services and be paired with an attorney.

Posted in: Small Claims