The number of people seeking support in court because they have no lawyer is up 520% since 2011.

For good reason. Court fees have doubled and legal representation can be expensive. Individuals and businesses with limited cash flow think they have two choices; ignore the problem or take on the case themselves. Neither is a good option and should someone decide to do the latter, understanding the Civil Procedure Rules (the “CPR”) will inevitably consume precious time. The CPR is a code of rules that govern how a case is conducted in England and Wales.

For the first time, the Supreme Court has been asked to consider the status of an individual or business who goes to Court without legal representation, also known as a litigant in person.

Currently, anyone outside of the legal profession attempting to take on civil court proceedings without legal representation, is finding themselves lost in the legal jargon, online complexities and complicated legal forms that are necessary for the case to be heard in Court. Not only is it a daunting task, but they often fail:

Judge: “The charge here is theft of frozen chickens. Are you the Defendant?”

Defendant: “No Sir, I’m the guy who stole the chickens”

Mr Mark Barton had originally brought professional negligence proceedings against Wright Hassall in 2007 (Barton v Wright Hassall LLP [2016] EWCA Civ 177, [2016] All ER (D) 202 (Mar). Unrepresented, Mr Barton took legal matters into his own hands and attempted to take on the court proceedings himself. His first task; submit and email his claim form to Wright Hassall’s lawyers. He failed at the first hurdle. The claim was ruled as invalid due to incorrect submission. In some circumstances, that would be case closed.

However, on 22nd November, Mr Barton appealed and argued that as a litigant in person he was ill-equipped to understand the Civil Procedure Rules.

Mr Barton, who is now represented by barristers at the Supreme Court argued that the rules are too complex for litigants in person to navigate. To access information, litigants in person are getting lost in a myriad of online options and legal jargon, and there are no appropriate rules. They further argued that judges seem to have substantially underestimated the difficulty that a litigant in person would have, in relation to the commencement and service of a claim.

(UPDATED 14.03.18) A successful appeal would have meant that the CPR is refreshed to adapt to the growing number of individuals litigating without legal representation. The judgment has now been released.

There are two things to take away from this article;

  1. Know all your available options; contact a solicitor to discuss how they can help. Do not underestimate the time and stress good legal representation could save you;
  2. Explore insurance policies available to you that cover your legal costs, they do exist, and your solicitor should advise you.

At Griffin Law, we share the risk of litigation with our clients and under the right circumstances, offer discounted hourly fees so that you know we are going to run the case as cost effectively as possible, attempting to avoid the Courts full stop. If you find yourself in a dispute, give us a call to see if we can help on 01732 525923 or email isobel@griffin.law