Home > Role of a Lawyer > A Lawyer's Duties to an Unrepresented Party

A Lawyer's Duties to an Unrepresented Party

By: Lorna Elliott LLB (hons), Barrister - Updated: 23 Aug 2018 |
Litigant Person Represent Court Judge

If you are representing yourself in court, you may be worried about what to expect. ‘Litigants in person’ as they are called, often appear on their own behalf out of necessity. Although you may not think it at the moment, it can in some circumstances be quite advantageous to represent yourself. You know your case better than anyone else, and the judge and the lawyer for the other party have to help you to understand the legal issues in your case.

The Judge’s Duty

When dealing with a litigant in person it is a judge’s duty to ensure that they are not disadvantaged. In practical terms this means that the judge will often explain the law to you, and any procedural aspects that you need to understand for the purposes of the hearing. If the other party is represented by a lawyer, they also have to ensure that they point out not only the elements of the law that assist their case, but must also tell you the law where it assists your case (i.e. that is detrimental to their own case.)

Duty Of The Other Side’s Lawyers

Lawyers representing the other side have to balance their obligations to their own client while not taking unfair advantage of an unrepresented party. This may mean that the lawyer has to limit their duty to act in the best interests of their own client. Although the lawyer has to help you to a certain extent, they must also be careful that any assistance you provide does not create a contractual relationship between you and the other side’s lawyer. This may happen, for example, if they provide advice that you subsequently act upon.

Difference Between Barrister And Solicitor

The exact nature of the duty that a lawyer owes to an unrepresented party depends on whether the lawyer is a barrister or a solicitor. A solicitor’s overriding duty is to his or her client. A barrister’s duty, however, is somewhat different. A barrister owes equal duties to the court and to his or her client. This means, for example, that a barrister cannot knowingly tell a lie to the court on behalf of his or her client. This extends to you as an unrepresented party. A barrister cannot therefore make a statement to you that they know to be false. If they unwittingly tell you something that is not true, they have to tell you as soon as they become aware of it.

Conduct Of A Litigant In Person

If you are representing yourself in court and the other party is represented, it is important that you do not consider the other side’s lawyer to be your ‘enemy.’ Lawyers in this country are well trained at dealing with litigants in person, and are under a duty to be able to assist you with understanding procedure and legal concepts where applicable. The judge or magistrate hearing your case will also have experience of dealing with litigants in person, and will be able to help you with anything that you are unsure of. If there are elements of your case that they consider you have not covered fully, or if there is more information that they require, they will as you for it.

Seeking Legal Advice

In some circumstances, you may arrive at court and the nature or complexity of your case may be such that you really would benefit from seeking legal advice before pursuing your case. This may happen if, for example, your case raises significant technical legal questions, or if you may be eligible for legal aid but didn’t realise it, or if pursuing your case may mean that you are eligible to pay substantial costs of the other side if you lose (for example, a claim for judicial review). In these circumstances, it is up to you whether you decide to seek advice or not, but it is well worth giving the matter some consideration if in particular the judge advises you to do so.

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What link can some one visit to have more education on solistors ? Thank you
Migisha kaggwa birah - 23-Aug-18 @ 4:01 PM
I have found that my solicitor had relationship with my ex during the acrimonious court case , SRA said she reported herself ( before her withdraw ) but the hotel's bills and others evidences shown that they had relationship long before she withdraw herself. I am in proceeding to complaint with SRA and on the same time , I want to take her for the professional negligence because she had helped my ex husband submitted the fraud evidences ( my confidential ). Do I have a ground for that? Please help.
stella - 1-Dec-16 @ 11:41 PM
Can a barristter or solicitor mislead the court 1 providing ia bundle that does not include documentation supporting the claimant? 2 Solicitor making false representation to the court
Are tapl - 28-Jun-16 @ 6:00 AM
A barrister representing my ex partner has I believe committed many abuse of procedural and has deliberately mislead the court. I can't find the relevant terminology and what to do about it. 1) a transcript of a 2 hearings were obtained to prove a judge had failed in his duty and used to get a appeal. Hearing 1 was my application and the judge found in my favour Hearing 2 was an enforcement of the order which my ex was in contempt of court Neither of us were represented at this point. The barrister in court on the 3rd hearing in front of a different judge said "I have recieved the transcripts yesterday and not had time to include them in the court bundle" (so the judge had not had sight of them.) On this day the barrister indicated that events from the second transcript happened in the first hearing. At a Later hearing only the first transcript was included. What I didn't realise was that the second transcript contained a request for an appeal by my ex that was denied, by not presenting it the new Judge granted an appeal which is if course incorrect. The matter needed to be referred to the appeals court. Additionally the barrister used an argument that events from the second transcript happened at the first hearing, she then retracted this 2hrs later in the same hearing. We then went before another judge and the barrister reused this argument indicating it happened in the first hearing. Advice/opinions please Thanks
Justjames - 23-Jun-16 @ 11:44 AM
@saxjoe _ I have included a link to the Bar Standards Board - How to Make a Complaint here . I hope this helps.
CourtroomAdvice - 22-Jun-15 @ 2:55 PM
if the other sides barrister has lied and i can prove it what should i do
saxjoe - 19-Jun-15 @ 7:09 PM
@Anthony - I'm afraid you would have to speak to the barrister/legal firm you have employed directly as ask if there is an alternative option.
CourtroomAdvice - 12-May-15 @ 12:08 PM
I have a case coming up in 1 June I have discovered the cost of a barrister Is 26,000 For five days I can afford this How can I get a duty barrister to assist What do I need to do
Anthony - 10-May-15 @ 12:04 AM
Pure Theory. Judges are former barristers and are condescending towards Self-represented Litigants viewing them as Non-Union Members who can be raduced by the Union Members. You have to know your facts and stand your ground against snide and disparaging behaviour, and watch out for lawyerly tricks. In the main lawyers are not very bright but are amoral and ready to cheat. Watch out for the so-called "neutral" Case Summary which leaves out relevant facts. Watch out for the Masons too. It is very rare to find a competent honest lawyer, but you are more likely to find an honest lawyer than you are a competent lawyer. They are terrified of educated professionals with disciplined rational minds and high levels of organisation who expose their short cuts and the sly telephone calls between lawyers selling out client interests for personal gain
Wide Awake - 7-Apr-15 @ 9:34 AM
The best advice on this page is the sentence in the bottom left hand corner!
tim - 26-Apr-12 @ 5:33 PM
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