Going Pro Se as a Freelancer
Representing yourself in court is known as Pro Se
When you represent yourself, known as Pro-Se, in a civil litigation case you will be required to go before the judge for any motions, hearings, and trial if it gets that far. Going before the judge can be very humbling for those new to civil litigation. Newbies often think the judge has all the time in the world to listen and review their case, but the fact is the judge is extremely busy, and chances are there are going to be people sitting in chairs right behind you ready for their case to be heard.
Going before the Judge
Unlike your favorite TV show or movie where the actor can be dramatic and long-winded, your time spent with the judge will go very quickly. Even though you are pro-se, the judge will expect you to know the procedures of the court such as addressing him as "Your Honor" and not "Sir" along with the issue or issues of the case you want the judge to resolve. You are going to need to know the best way to present your case base on the law concisely and factually, not your feelings or point of view of what happened and what you think the judge should do. The judge is looking for the facts, and whether the law applies, this is a significant error pro-se' are guilty of, not giving the judge the information he needs to rule favorably in their case.
Yes, they really do lie!
The opposing attorney will move fast once he determines you are pro-se, making it hard for you to research your case or learn how to respond professionally. One thing I learned while going through my case is that the attorney will lie and unless you know how to present that lie according to their procedures it won’t matter to the Judge. Also watch out for the court calendar. The attorney's have access to this and things mysterious disappear.
"It's a business"
I was told over and over again that “it is a business”. When you walk into that court room it is like walking into someone’s office. They know all the players and you are the newbie. A huge disadvantage, and I believe one reason it wont/hasn’t change is that once a pro se end the case they just want it all to go away. It is a ugly business dealing with ugly people.
There is some help
There is help out there if you find yourself in a pro se position. Not much help since 1) it is regulated by the Bar and 2) the attorneys can be held liable. You will have to spend time researching your area. Usually the court will have Pro Se information and your state will have Rules of Court Procedure.
Get insurance and hopefully you will never need it
As a freelancer, I always wondered if I should have insurance. If it would be worth the cost. I researched them off and on but they never seemed to fit my niche. Now going back, knowing what I know now, the best reason to have insurance is they will help you fight your case and pay the attorney’s fee. So if you are a freelancer and haven’t looked into getting insured, I highly recommend you do!