Advice for self-represented litigants, Part 2: The Important Rule that most self-represented litigants never learn, or learn too late.
It is an opposing lawyer’s duty in law to deceive and obstruct you.
“Be instantly wary of any advice, suggestion, question or information from opposing counsel. They do not have your interests in mind; quite the opposite.”
For the moment, forget about Civil or Criminal court procedures. You need to know about the lawyers’ Rules of Professional Conduct; because these rules allow lawyers to deceive, cheat, abuse and obstruct the self-represented litigant in ways that ordinary people might consider to be unethical, unfair or unjust.
The most formidable challenge of being a self-represented litigant (‘SRL’) is that you must play in a game where the complete rules are known only to your opponents and to the referee (who is called ‘the judge’).
There are different sets of rules for different types of cases and different courts. The rules for Criminal proceedings differ so much from Civil procedure that most lawyers hesitate to cross into the other area of practice in all but the simplest cases. I personally saw one of Canada’s most senior and respected criminal lawyers overwhelmed by the Ontario Rules of Civil Procedure in just a few months. He charged me $60,000 for his reputation and then walked away. (And I thought, “If a man with 35 years before the criminal courts can’t figure out the rules of civil procedure, I’m toast.”)
The rules themselves are complex, and are made even more so by normal practice where rules can be bent, avoided and waived under various circumstances. Different courthouses can have different procedural sub-rules where legal documents must be filed a certain way at one courthouse, and another way in the next town.
There is also the reality that some judges routinely allow lawyers to break, bend or ignore various rules; even as the same judges slam self-represented litigants for being unaware of, or breaking, the same a rules or procedures.
And into the middle of all this chaos steps the self-represented litigant; desperately trying to learn enough of the rules and procedures to be effective against opposing counsel who might have 20 years or more appearing daily in the courts.
You don’t even know what you don’t know. Read more