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So, you want to be your own attorney?

Updated on June 18, 2009
This isn't Switzerland. My attorney "only" has a house in Telluride, Colorado.
This isn't Switzerland. My attorney "only" has a house in Telluride, Colorado.

This might be the smartest decision you’ve ever made.

Not only will you save thousands of dollars that would normally help your attorney buy her ski chalet in Switzerland or make his alimony payment to one of his former wives, but you’ll also be in a more powerful position with the court.

That’s right, you’ll be better off without an attorney!

That’s a secret no one in the legal profession wants you to know.

They have to be nicer to you if you go pro se -that’s one of their fancy Latin terms but it only means "for oneself."

If they treat you bad, you can appeal and win your case on a technicality. After all, it’s not your fault if you don’t have a law degree and weren't born an Austin criminal attorney or an Atlanta divorce attorney!

There are a lot of websites out there that have all the forms you need -just plug in your information and take it down to the courthouse.

If you can’t find something, don’t worry.Just write it down, sign your name at the bottom and send it to the other party and the court.

Do your best with spelling and grammar but if it’s not perfect, it’s not your problem. You don’t even need to use all that lawyer talk either. Real people don’t sound like they ate a thesaurus and it’s time they admitted that Latin should be allowed to rest in peace.

VALUABLE TIP: Be nice to the court clerks! They’re overworked and underpaid and if they like you, your papers won’t be “lost” in the system!

Good luck with your case! And remember, a person who represents himself might have a fool for a client, but only losers hire lawyers.

Okay, not really! For a lot of things you will need an attorney to get you through the process. But it's often possible to do it yourself, especially if you have time and it's a fairly simple, uncomplicated document like a will - one with not a lot of special issues.

Hiring an attorney or not, here are some simple definitions of common legal terms.

1. A/K/A – short for also known as, but sounds cooler.

2. Court – where the Plaintiff and Defendant take their problem. The Judge is also referred to as “the Court” because he or she decides who is right.

3. Defendant – the person who’d better have a good explanation for what someone said they did.

4. et al – means that there are more people on the list but it takes too much time to write all of them.

5. Go hence without day – lawyers like to use this phrase because it sounds important, but it only means to do it today, now, immediately if not sooner, what’s taking you so long, should have been done yesterday.

6. Libel and Slander – when someone says something so bad about someone to so many people that it ruins his or her life. This is way beyond just talking bad about someone behind her back, which isn’t very nice anyway. Libel is written and slander is spoken.

7. Original Petition – the first paper that the Plaintiff writes that complains about the Defendant.

8. Plaintiff – the person who is complaining about something someone else (the Defendant) did.

9. WHEREFORE PREMISES CONSIDERED – this phrase is often the opening line of the last paragraph on legal papers. Secretaries write it in capital letters because they are so happy the typing is almost done.

Common Questions and Their Answers

Q: What is an original complaint?

A: It’s an Official Document that tells what those bad people did to you!

Q: How do I write up an original complaint?

A: Just fill out the blanks from forms online or in a book and e-file or snail mail to the clerk of your court!

Q: I don’t know who the clerk of my court is. How do I find out?

A: Google it.

Q: I’ve filed my lawsuit. Now what?

A: The answer is easy. Nothing. Not one thing.

Q: That’s it? I just file and win?

A: Don’t be silly. The Defendants have about twenty days (depending on your court) to give you an answer. So FOR NOW just kick back and relax. Have a beer.

Q: I got the Defendant’s Answer and they denied everything. Now what?

A: Of course they denied everything. What did you expect? Don’t worry, you’ll be able to get them to admit to everything in the next stage of your lawsuit – Discovery!

Q: I got the Defendant’s Answer and they not only denied everything, but they counterclaimed against me! Now what?

A: You got a counterclaim? Congratulations! That means that they’re really worried you’ll win. But that counterclaim means that you have to file an answer. Just deny everything and you’ll be fine.


Q: Okay, it’s time to start the discovery phase. Now what?

A: You get to see what other documents they have that will prove your case! What could be more fun?

Q: Seriously, what do I have to do?

A: Patience is a virtue – especially in litigation. You’ve heard the phrase “rush to judgment?” Well, no one rushes in law, unless it’s the attorney trying to get your money. They’ve got lots of overhead.

But if you really must get started RIGHT NOW, choose any or all of the four different types of discovery listed below.


This kind of Disclosure has nothing to do with the movie and isn’t nearly as exciting. It’s just a form full of canned questions.


These are great! If they don’t answer in a month, the court assumes that they’ve agreed that you’re right about everything! Incredible! Doesn’t matter if they lost the paper or forgot or put down the wrong date to answer on their calendars!


This is where you ask for any and all documents, facsimiles, notes, etc connected with your case. Sure, they can object for awhile, but they gotta give you pretty much everything to do with your case. Sometimes they like to give you boxes and boxes and boxes and boxes that they hope will keep you busy forever.


This is where you ask them tough questions. Go ahead!

Going Through the Motions

No, we’re not talking about moves you make in yoga or pilates. Motions are papers that go to the court, asking it to do something that will be good for you and bad for the other guy. Yay! You should hit them with as many of these motions that you can. If they respond, just answer back with a Response to their Answer to Your Motion Form. It’s that easy!Well, sort of. See examples below.

Motion to Enlarge Time- sounds impossible? It’s not. The court really has the power to do this!

Motion for Some Sort of Judgment (It might be Summary Judgment - better check that)– here’s where you might win your case even before you get to trial! No need to go to the courthouse and have your nail clippers taken away.

Motion for Lis Pendens, Motion in Limine, and Motions in other Latin terms.

Not sure what these are because they’re in Latin? Not to worry, file it anyway.

Motion for Contempt – Yeah, you’re contemptuous of them. File it.

Motion to Strike – No, you can’t pretend like you’re going to hit them. This is to take something they said off the record. Or something like that. Close enough.

There are tons more. Go to the library, use the internet and ask the Court Clerks. Remember to be nice to them.

Oh, and always show up in court when they tell you to.


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      the rookie 7 years ago

      this is really funny, thank you