Court proceedings: Self-represent or instruct a solicitor?

by | Oct 9, 2023 | Blog Posts


If you are involved in a legal dispute, you may be considering whether to instruct solicitors or to self-represent. It is not mandatory to instruct a solicitor or direct access barrister to represent you in court. You can represent yourself in many courts, as a Litigant In Person (“LiP”).

Will the Court assist a Litigant in Person?

Preparing for and attending court can be stressful. The court expects the parties to comply with strict deadlines and procedural rules. Judges are aware of some of the difficulties LiPs face. However, they are clear that they will not assist LiPs or even advise them what to do.

Instead, Judges are expected to maintain a balance between assisting the LiPs whilst protecting the represented opponent against problems which can be a result of the LiPs lack of legal and procedural knowledge.

Mainline Pipelines v Phillips & Another

This balance was highlighted in the recent judgment in Mainline Pipelines Ltd v Phillips & Another.

Here, the Defendants were self-representing. His Honour Judge Paul Matthews commented that it is the choice of LiPs to take part personally in formal legal proceedings and by doing so take on the responsibility to make themselves aware of the relevant procedural rules.

At one point in the proceedings, the Claimant offered to pay for the LiP to take independent legal advice as it was clear that the LiP did not understand the basic points of law. The LiP refused this offer, and it was found that their failure to take advice resulted in the matter being more complicated, slow and expensive.

The matter was concluded in the Claimant’s favour. And the Court ordered the LiP to pay the Claimant’s costs, which may have otherwise been avoided had they taken preliminary legal advice.

The benefits of instructing a solicitor for litigation

We understand that the cost of instructing a solicitor may encourage people to choose to represent themselves in litigation. However, we always advise people considering litigation to speak to a solicitor early on. The advantages of instructing a solicitor can outweigh the perceived costs benefits:

  • Early legal advice can help you settle the case early, without ever needing to issue proceedings. Saving you time, anguish and costs.
  • A solicitor will advise you on whether your case is likely to succeed. From here, you can decide whether to proceed.
  • Dispute resolution specialists will be familiar with the rules and procedures relevant to your case. This means that they will take on the burden of ensuring that everything happens how and when it should. This can save later costs awards against you like in the above example.
  • Should your matter reach a hearing, specialist representation will ensure that your case is put in the strongest possible terms. You will be in the best position to win (or successfully defend) your case.

How can we help you?

Our dispute resolution team are specialists in what they do. We can give you advice at the beginning of your dispute so that you can decide whether you want to proceed with your claim on your own, with representation, or not at all.

If you instruct us to act for you in your dispute, you can be assured that our advice will be practical and with the aim of getting you the result you want in the most cost-effective manner.

Alternatively, if you decide that you would like to self-represent, we can still help. We can advise you, draft the papers and issue the court proceedings for you. Leaving you able to carry on with the case on your own, knowing that we have got you off to the best possible start.

Call the team on 0800 988 7756 to discuss your options. Or fill in our contact form and our team will call you back.


Trainee Solicitor, Connor King, also contributed to this blog.

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