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Your rights in court

If you are involved in a court case as an individual, you have the right to engage the services of a lawyer or represent yourself in court. While this is your personal choice, it is an important decision you should make after considering the pros and cons of each option.

Note
Lawyers are not allowed for proceedings in the Small Claims Tribunals, Employment Claims Tribunals or Community Disputes Resolution Tribunals (CDRT). Exceptions may apply for the CDRT.

What representing yourself means

When you represent yourself in court, you handle the court proceedings and applications without a lawyer. You will often be referred to as a litigant-in-person (LIP).

As an LIP, you will be held to the same standard as lawyers. The court is not expected to relax its procedural rules and standards for you. This means that you must:

  • Bear the full responsibility of preparing for your own case.
  • Conduct your own case in all court hearings.
  • Comply with all rules, court directions and legal procedures.
  • Familiarise yourself with the applicable laws and legal principles, and the defences available to you in law.
Note
A judge's role is to ensure that you have a fair hearing. While the judge may offer some guidance about legal procedures during your court hearings, the judge cannot advise you on what you should do to successfully represent yourself.

What to consider

You should consider representing yourself only if you are confident of:

  • Handling the legal procedure.
  • Putting in the time and effort to prepare your case for court.
  • Presenting your case to the judge and prosecution or opposing counsel.

Otherwise, you may wish to consider engaging a lawyer or speak to one to help you better decide if you wish to represent yourself or to be represented by a lawyer.

Get legal support

You have the right to obtain legal advice, seek legal assistance or engage a lawyer to represent you in court.

The courts cannot provide legal advice. Find out more about the legal resources and legal assistance schemes available for criminal, civil and family cases.

Need help?

The information here is for general guidance as the courts do not provide legal advice. If you need further help, you may want to get independent legal advice.

Find out more

Resources

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