The decision to self-represent

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Objective. Since litigants are assumed to place themselves at a legal disadvantage by self-representing, self-representation is traditionally not considered part of an effective legal strategy. The author considers whether it is possible to identify self-representation as part of a sound legal strategy. Methods. Qualitative interviews were conducted with 95 civil appellants in Illinois, Minnesota, and Mississippi. Twenty-three (27 percent) of the interviews involved self-represented appellants and the remaining 72 (73 percent) interviewed litigants were lawyer-represented. Results. The interviews confirm that there was a disjuncture between the litigants' views of the issues in their claim and the lawyers' view of the issue in the litigants' claim. One possible method for litigants to reconcile this disjuncture was through self-representation. Conclusion. While self-representation usually occurs because of the financial burden associated with retaining legal counsel, self-representation might also be pursued by some litigants as part of a legal strategy to force the courts to deal with the issue that the litigants, rather than the legal system, identify as at the heart of their disputes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)912-923
Number of pages12
JournalSocial Science Quarterly
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 1996
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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