Law Offices of Eric W. Symonds
315 W Pondera St
Phone: 661-940-1742 661-940-1742
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You have the right to act as your own attorney and represent yourself in almost all matters. Similarly, you may also trim your own trees, rebuild your car’s engine, or splint your own broken bones. The reality is that most of us choose not to do these things ourselves and would rather rest comfortably knowing that we’ve hired a professional to do what he or she is best at doing. Court can be a scary place and legal jargon is confusing. I have seen self-represented litigants with a Master Degree, otherwise sophisticated and elegant in speech and presentation, become tongue-tied and incapable of effectively representing themselves once in front of the Court. The reason is that the litigant is a “fish out of water” in an unfamiliar and largely unfriendly environment. The Court staff including the Judge, bailiff, clerk, and reporter are there to do a job. While they are human beings just like the rest of us, none of their duties include directing or guiding you through the business of the courtroom. Not only are they generally knee-deep in their own job duties, it is illegal for them to give you legal advice even if they wanted or were able to. Once you step on the other side of the bar (the railing that separates the audience from counsel table,) you are on your own. Although you are welcome to bring a friend or family member for moral support, no one other than a lawyer can actually speak on your behalf. Thus if you’ve been getting all your legal advice from a trusted advisor who may have prevailed in a similar circumstance, you need to remember that he or she will not be able to speak for you and you will have to present your case to the Court on your own; let’s hope the advice given to you was competent, not outdated, and relevant to the issues actually before the Court on that day. Remember that the Court can only hear and decide those issues that are properly brought before it that day; this is far different than explaining to your friend or colleague about what is “right” or the way something “should be.” Many self-represented litigants fall prey to wasting precious time by trying to inform or persuade the Court about something that it could not rule on that day even if it wanted to.
An experienced lawyer knows the law and the procedures for getting your particular issues properly before the Court so that a ruling can be made. There will be deadlines that must be met. Service of Process must be done a particular way and varies according to the content of what is being served. Just because the other side has knowledge of the complaint or request for order, does not necessarily mean that service was proper. Show up in Court without proof of proper service, and your matter will be continued or possibly even dismissed. This results in a loss of time and money. In some cases, it may be months before your next court date.
Your issues must be properly plead to the Court. A good lawyer is going to listen to your complete story, ask necessary questions, then filter out the legally relevant issues and decide how best to plead them to the Court. An excellent example, sadly, occurs everyday in the area of Family Law. Consider this; California is a “no fault” State. What this means is that many of the most hurtful things that will drive a marriage straight into the rocks, are legally irrelevant; they are family, not legal, issues. Things such as infidelity, arguments, general unpleasantness are not legal issues per se. Issues such as Domestic Violence, drug or excessive alcohol use, however are legal issues that can effect spousal support, child custody and other matters. The point here is that all of the above are potentially hurtful to the divorcing spouse and are likely the reason you’re going to court in the first place. However, the fact that your former spouse is “crazy,” “mean,” or not at all the person you started out loving, often has no legal relevance and you’ll be wasting your time explaining to the Court that he or she is a “bad person.” One of the primary functions of an attorney is to separate the emotional issues from the legal ones and then decide how best to present them to the Court.
THE INFORMATION PRESENTED THROUGHOUT THIS WEBSITE DOES NOT CONSTITUTE PROFESSIONAL ADVICE AND IS NOT INTENDED TO BE LEGAL ADVICE. THE INFORMATION AND ALL MATERIALS ON THIS WEBSITE ARE PROVIDED AS A COURTESY AND FOR GENERAL INFORMATION ONLY. EVERY CIRCUMSTANCE IS UNIQUE AND YOU SHOULD CONSULT AN ATTORNEY BEFORE BEGINNING OR CONTINUING ANY LEGAL ACTION WHATSOEVER. IT IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO VERIFY THE ACCURACY AND COMPLETENESS OF ALL INFORMATION CONTAINED ON THIS WEBSITE OR ANY WEBSITE LINKED HERETO.