Does More Pro Se Litigants = Fewer Clients?


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The crumbling economy has created waves of bankruptcy, foreclosures, and a cash-flow crunch for many consumers. According to at least one article, more and more individuals are using law libraries to represent themselves Pro Se. Does that translate to less potential clients?

Some practice areas are hit harder than others

According to the article, the majority of people using law libraries are seeking information on family law issues. I do not practice family law, so I have no perception of how this has affected the number of potential family law clients. Bankruptcy, on the other hand, appears to be a booming practice area. Although one can assume that eventually the demand for bankruptcy will drop.

Information does not equate with representation

I have talked with more then one client who started out by using the law library, or another free resource for legal help, and still ended up hiring us. Just because an individual gets the keys to a Ferrari does not mean they know how to drive it. Same thing with legal research–many individuals can do the proper research, but cannot put together the proper argument. Individuals still may need a lawyer to present their argument, or to guide them on their case.

Do pro se litigants win?

Pro se litigants may have a difficult time proceeding on their own. I do not have access to any statistics, but my gut feeling is that pro se litigants are more likely to lose then individuals with representation.

As more and more pro se litigants flood the courtrooms, however, judicial administration may have to adapt to make it even easier for people to handle their own cases. If more and more people are in the courts, cases will have to become more efficient, which could involve creating even more free resources for pro se litigants, and making it easier for individuals to represent themselves.

(photo: Krista76)


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  • Andrew Cosgrove

    Great blog. I read and enjoy the posts daily. Please don’t take this the wrong way, but the title should say “fewer clients.” If you can count the items, then the proper word is “fewer,” not “less.”

  • Randall Ryder

    That would explain why it sounded so awkward in my head. Thanks for the heads up!

  • This is another example of how the need for legal services for low and moderate income people outstrips the available resources. Many legal services and bar organizations run pro se clinics at courthouses and other locations to help people who have legal issues, but don’t know where to turn. In addition, on-line resources like provide a significant amount of content for the average layperson.

    Would these potential litigants be better off with a lawyer? Perhaps. There is a great need for not only pro bono, but low bono (or lower than market rate) counsel. Greater access to information helps the average person learn more about what to do, but it is a rough substitute for having legal counsel. The enterprising practitioner who finds a way to make a living doing this would also provide a great service to the community.

  • Assisting pro se individuals is one area where virtual law practice is really able to step in to provide a cost-effective solution. There are ways to deliver legal services online so that it benefits pro se individuals by providing the limited assistance they want while also benefiting the attorneys who may unbundle their legal services online, streamline that work with technology and pull in some additional client revenue on the side. There some good resources out there about unbundling legal services responsibility. See the ABA’s Delivery Committee website:

  • Mike

    Here lies the problem. Court cases take for ever and some of these ambulance chasers charge 250-400 per hour! Even if you have a decent income over time you run out of money. In my situation, I have had a case going on for almost two years now. I hired an attorney who dragged his tail. After the first year, I had spent over ten thousand dollars and not even had a hearing! I complained so my attorney withdrew from my case claiming I was difficult. I wasn’t trying to be difficult, I just wanted to know how ten grand had disappeared without even a single hearing. I also got behind on paying my attorney. I am not proud of that and was not trying to cheat him, but you can’t get blood out of a turnip as the southern expression goes. He withdrew from the case, and I can’t help but notice it only took him a few weeks to get the withdrawal heard but couldn’t help me in a year. Since that time I have had to go Pro Se and at least I have had a hearing now and though I don’t know a ton about law, I did okay. The case is still ongoing but I am not any worse off than I was before and it has saved me a ton of money.

  • Robert

    A great many attorney’s want to blame folks for trying to save money by going pro se, however, many attorney’s do not understand, majority of pro se litigants really did not have a choice.

    The issues in general, not as a whole: You get a great many personal injury attorneys ( ambulance chasers as some would title) get complacent. Those cases are generally, not always, but generally easy cases being that most insurance carriers rather settle so then, the case becomes like a script. The attorneys get used to the same area of practice and do not want to go outside of their comfort zone or “take a chance” and believe in themselves to win a case that may be difficult. It’s much easier for an attorney to say “no thanks”.

    I have proceeded a few times pro se and have won. I searched the internet, contacted 100s of attorneys who thought I had a snow balls chance at winning and didnt want to take the chance and fight for me. My cases were very much winnable, as it proved. ONE point in case: I was a renter in a house that was uninhabitable ( beauty is only skin deep) and didnt realize all the code violations until moving in. The interior walls were hollow, no insulation, MASSIVE amounts of cockroaches and nest’s in the walls. The living room floor fell under my roomates feet like sawdust being it was rotted and carpet was laid over a HUGE hole. Their was a sink hole under the carport causing the carport to cave in, trust me, the list goes on and would be 10 pages of code violations reported to the city and noted to the landlord whom refused to repair. On the contrary, he chose to evict us for making the complaints to code enforcemnt.

    This was a clear case of 1. retaliatory eviction 2. personal injury 3.uninhabitable living conditions 4. health violations ( infestations).

    Yet, for some reason, NO ATTORNEY wanted to take the case on. I had photos, videos, city code violation report, emails from landlord regarding the eviction etc. Yet most attorneys stated, “they didnt feel it was strong enough case”..Some said, “you need to contact a landlord / tenant attorney. Called landlord / tenant attorneys and they said, sorry, you need to find a personal injury attorney.

    Needless to say I got frustrated with taking and wasting time emailing all of these firms that DID NOT want to actually take a chance on something they were not familiar with. So i decided to proceed pro se. Not only did I win MORE than the original complaint, I was also awarded treble damages, punitive damages, rent abatement ( reimbursement), reimbursement for moving expenses, AND attorney fees. The case I filed for damages was $16,000 and I was awarded $32,000.00 and the landlords insurance company had to pay.

    So it’s really not fare to blame individuals for proceeding pro se, keep in mind, majority would LOVE to be represented, but sometimes, YOU have do to what YOU have to do. If no one will take a chance and fight for you, by all means you have a right to fight for your rights yourself.

    Another issue is retainer fees/rates up front. Majority of attorneys around my area, “if” they do decide to take a case, they want $3,000.00 up front, then $250.00 an hour. Unless you are that rich, you cant afford that and not many attorneys will work a payment plan or contingency UNLESS of course it’s a personal injury case where they KNOW they are going to get paid. If you work a payment plan of monthly payments of, lets say, $200/mo until balance paid, isnt $200 / mo better than $0? of course it is. And should you win the case, your more than likely going to get the lump sum upon payment of the damages won.

  • Iwonprose

    I won pro se. I had the option of hiring an attorney but did not. I studied the law and applied what I had learned and won. My experience with attorneys is that they don’t really care about you and only want paid. My opinion is they are overpaid and rarely ever do a good job. You know more about your case than they do. You are more interested in winning than they are. You only have one client to concentrate on, yourself. Why if you can read would you put your fate in the hands of a total stranger? I say go pro se. You can do it! I did!