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Tips on Self Representation

Authored By: Legal Aid of North Carolina LSC Funded

The Court is a very traditional and polite place.  When you are representing yourself in Court, you are trying to persuade a judge or a jury that you are right.  Please remember that you must act, dress, and speak in a way that best presents you and your case to the Court.


  • When you come to Court, dress as professionally as you can.  This means clothes that are clean and neat.  Please avoid shorts, sweat pants, tee shirts with suggestive or obscene language or other revealing or tight clothing.  Please remember to present yourself as clean and well groomed.


  • How you act and react is very important.  You MUST be respectful of everyone in the Court.  This includes the judge, the Court staff, the other party involved in your case, and the witnesses.  Getting overly emotional, yelling, cursing, or using threatening language will not aid your presentation to the Court.  Always stand when addressing the judge.  Remain seated when questioning witnesses.  Before approaching the judge or a witness, ask permission from the judge.


  • The Court has a very busy schedule.  Be on time for your Court time or any other appointment about your case!  If you are late, your case may be heard without you or be dismissed.  Make sure you bring all of your documents for your case or appointment.  Please remember to stick to the facts of the important or relevant issues of your case – do not get caught up in unrelated matters that may unwisely use up your time or detract from your case.


  • The judge cannot speak to you about your case except when your case is being heard in Court and/or the other party is present.  The judge’s staff will help you as much as they can with questions about the scheduling of your case or whether the judge has decided on your case.  But the staff cannot give you legal advice or recommendations on how to present your side.  Remember to always be polite to the Court staff and be prepared with any information they may need.


  • When you represent yourself in Court, get legal advice from a lawyer ahead of time to make sure you are doing the right thing.  Legal advice includes deciding what option is best for you.


Remember the 4 'P's:    Professionalism, Preparation, Punctuality, Politeness.

Last Review and Update: Aug 24, 2011