Representing yourself in court

The Bar Council represents all barristers in England and Wales. We believe access to justice is a fundamental part of the rule of law. Whether people use barristers' services or not, we believe we have a responsibility to explain and demystify the legal system to anyone who comes into contact with it.

We have produced a guide to help you on your legal journey, which has been written by barristers, who have extensive experience across all courts and understand how the system works.

Click here to access the Guide

Guide to Representing Yourself - Front Cover

Terminology

The number of people who do not qualify for legal aid, but equally cannot afford representation, is growing. These people are called 'litigants-in-person' (LIPs) or, as they were previously known; 'self-representing litigants' (SRLs). They will have to go to court (to 'litigate') without a lawyer, and will have to represent themselves.

This Guide looks to help 'litigants-in-person' through their legal journey, which can be a very daunting, complicated and expensive experience. 

Impacts of the LASPO Act

On 1 April 2013, the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO) came into force. This means that fewer people now have access to free legal representation than at any time since legal aid (state funding for legal advice and representation) was introduced. If you have a legal problem there is now more chance that you will have to represent yourself. 

New guidance for lawyers when dealing with litigants in person

A surge in the number of people representing themselves in court has prompted legal organisations to draft guidelines for lawyers who come up against people who find themselves in court without legal representation.

In June 2015, these guidelines were published by the Bar Council, Chartered Institute of Legal Executives and the Law Society in response to the rising numbers of people representing themselves in court without a lawyer as a result of cuts to legal aid, the increase in the small-claims limit and the introduction of employment tribunal fees.

Whilst these guidelines are specifically for lawyers, there is accompanying notes for litigants in person to help those representing themselves understand what to expect (and what you cannot expect) from the lawyer for the other side in court proceedings.

Read these notes here.

More information

For more information on how to read the Guide to Representing Yourself in Court, what it covers, and the authors, click through the tabs below.

This Guide is an online tool. Hardcopies can be found in your local MP office, in Citizen Advice Bureaus, Advice UK centres, law centres and Personal Support Units. Should you still have difficulites accessing a copy of the Guide, please contact the  Bar Council Press Office.

How to read the Guide

We recommend that you use the first three, general, Sections to familiarise yourself with how the legal process works, how to prepare your case, and if you have to go to court, what you should expect and be aware of. Then go to the relevant part to your case in the final Section (Section 4). If you have a case which does not fall under Section 4, the first three sections will still be helpful. Remember that different areas of law, and different courts, have different procedures. This means that not all the general guidance in the first three Sections will be applicable to all types of case. Try to do as much research as you can, using the resources we suggest in this Guide.

What the Guide covers

  • Section 1: How to find free or affordable help with your legal problem

  • Section 2, Part 1: Putting together your case

  • Section 2, Part 2: Starting and defending a claim

  • Section 3: Representing yourself in court: On the day

  • Section 4: Areas of law
  1. Personal injury law

  2. Employment Tribunal

  3. Immigration Tribunals

  4. Family law

  5. Property ownership in relationship breakdowns

  6. Public law and Judicial Review

  7. Housing law

  8. Bankruptcy and debt law 

  • Glossary of terms

We hope this Guide is useful, and helps you to understand how the justice system should work fairly and openly for everyone who comes into contact with it. 

Authors of the Guide

This Guide was written by barristers who specialise in different areas of law and who have a lot of experience in all kinds of courts.

All Sections of the Guide have been drafted and by junior barristers and QCs.

Section 1: Harriet Deane and Sarah Tavakoli

Section 2, Part 1: Putting together your case - Karen Shuman

Section 2, Part 2: Starting and defending a claim - Adam Gadd and Charles Cory-Wright QC

Section 3: Representing yourself in court: On the day - Hannah Slarks, Javan Herberg QC and Robin Knowles QC

Section 4: Areas of law:

  1. Personal injury law - Adam Gadd and Charles Cory-Wright QC

  2. Employment Tribunal - Craig Rajgopaul and Lydia Banerjee

  3. Immigration Tribunals - Alasdair MacKenzie

  4. Family law - Louise Brown, Geoffrey Kingscote and Nicholas Cusworth QC

  5. Property ownership in relationship breakdowns - Miranda Allardice

  6. Public law and Judicial Review - Hannah Slarks, Chris Knight and Javan Herberg QC 

  7. Housing law - Justin Bates 

  8. Bankruptcy and debt law - Eleanor Holland and Sharif Shivji

Glossary of terms - Jane Rayson, Diane Sechi and Andrew Hillier.

Thanks also to the Working Group Editing Team: Michael Kent QC, Javan Herberg QC, Robin Knowles QC, Rebecca Wilkie, Andrew Stafford QC and Eleanor Holland.