Time and time again we are instructed on cases that are already half way through proceedings. Sometimes this can be due to the client wanting to change solicitors. But most of the time it is because client’s want to deal with a claim themselves, most likely to save money. This is what I like to call DIY Law. A person who is party to legal proceedings and has not instructed legal representation is known as a Litigant in Person (LIP).
A right to represent one’s self may seem exciting and a given right, yet I have seen individuals do this to their detriment and end up losing large amounts of money, instead of saving it.
Being unable to stick to strict court deadlines, ignoring letters thinking they will go away or simply not understanding correspondence received from the other side. These are all elements that if left and not dealt with can have a snow ball effect and cause serious financial consequences.
It may seem simple at first, relying on a wealth of guidance from the ever expanding. But forgetting the contents of a court order, or misplacing key documents with the relevant important information, is not an excuse, nor is ignorance of the law a valid defence one can rely upon.
An increase in court fees and the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) slashed the availability of Legal Aid funding for civil matters causing a rise of LIP’s, yet the increase in these litigants has not pushed the courts to take a lenient approach. In fact the courts will not tolerate any sloppy approach to cases. Tinkler and another v Elliott  EWCA Civ 1289 the Court of Appeal said ‘lack of understanding of procedures does not entitle him to extra indulgence’.
The government effectively has made it difficult for access to justice for all by not only cutting the legal aid budget for civil cases, but also not implementing appropriate provisions for LIP’s.
Understanding the law and the legal processes of the UK is a difficult thing and takes years of education and training to become a qualified solicitor or barrister. Because of this, LIP’s can have great difficulty grasping legal concepts, court procedures and effectively slow the process down by finding themselves in over their head, whilst being too emotionally involved in the matter.
Financially for some, it may seem impossible for a solicitor to assist in a dispute. However there are firms that offer, for the appropriate case a fixed fee funding arrangement and even a conditional fee agreement also known as ‘no win no fee’. It is also worth enquiring into civil legal aid funding which has been drastically reduced but not removed in its entirety.
Unfortunately not everything is as is portrayed in the movies where the underdog small person will leave a hearing triumphant and victorious; more likely you will leave the court system confused and disappointed with not much to show but a lot of debt.
Paying a solicitor early on for proper advice will save a lot of tears and money in the long run.