One of the recurring issues on this blog will be “when and under what circumstances” you should represent yourself in a matter that involves legal issues? There will rarely be a clear cut answer, but there will always be several issues to consider when deciding whether to engage a representative or to handle a particular matter yourself. Perhaps the most important consideration will be your mindset — how do you feel about the issue and how does the issue make you feel?
The old adage that “a person who represents himself has a fool as a lawyer” is not an absolutism any more than the statement that “the person represented by a high-priced lawyer gets great value.” The point at which it is most foolish to represent yourself or to handle a matter without counsel and support is when you are emotionally invested in a matter. You say that is all the time. Then you probably should never represent yourself.
When one is most highly invested in a matter, it is very difficult to determine the merits of the matter, how much energy to invest in it or what the best solutions may possibly be. Yes, it is because one’s judgment is clouded. One’s judgment tends to be clouded because the problem he or she is seeking to resolve is not at it’s clearest, but is shrouded in the need to have one’s emotional state addressed. In other words, getting rid of anger or getting even becomes more the focus than the actual problem such as collecting a debt, not getting cheated by a contractor or being illegally stopped by an officer.
The logic is simple. If you are trying to resolve your emotions, you are not focused and clear on how to solve the problem at hand and you will ultimately be dissatisfied with the result of your representation because you were represented foolishly.
We’ll talk more about it, but the best time to represent yourself is when you have “let go” of the problem and are focused on the solution. Most likely, if you are fighting mad over the past, you are losing present and future value that multiplies the damage already suffered. Think about it and feel free to comment.