Litigants in Person – Going it Alone.

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By Carla Jones – Director/Solicitor

Most litigators will happily tell you that when you’re faced with someone conducting their own legal case the whole approach changes. Historically, courts have been extremely lenient on individuals acting in person, allowing rules to be bent, deadlines to be missed and second chances to become third.

However, a new spate of case law is suggesting that the courts’ patience and leniency may be fading when it comes to those going it alone.

In a recent case in which a Claimant acting in person failed to serve documents in line with court rules, the judge was quick to let everyone know there were no indulgences granted to litigants in person and there was no obligation on the Defendant’s solicitors to point out to the Claimant that she was doing things wrong.

To many people familiar with the court process, the ruling in this case may come as a shock as solicitors have been criticised in the past for not guiding an in-person litigant through the court process, and for failing to point out mistakes in time for them to be remedied.

Perhaps this is all down to more people appearing in person and the court’s eventual exhaustion at broken rules and guidelines, or perhaps a toughening of the system generally.

It remains almost certain that the courts will stay somewhat sympathetic in general to litigants conducting their own cases, but the wide availability of court rules and protocols is now leading to courts cracking down on those who get things wrong when going it alone.