Represent Yourself in Court FAQ

When my case finally makes it to the courtroom, I'm afraid I won't know what to say, when to say it, or even where to stand. How can I learn what to do?

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When my case finally makes it to the courtroom, I'm afraid I won't know what to say, when to say it, or even where to stand. How can I learn what to do?

It's not hard to learn how to conduct yourself in court. This is especially true if your trial is before a judge without a jury, because many judges make an effort to simplify jargon and procedure for self-represented parties. In addition, there are several practical steps you can take to learn the ropes:

  • Attend a few trials involving similar issues. You'll see that it won't be that difficult to present your story and evidence to a judge.
  • Carefully read a self-help book such as Represent Yourself in Court: How to Prepare & Try a Winning Case, by Paul Bergman and Sara J. Berman (Nolo), which explains what you'll need to do in great detail. For example, you'll want to prepare a brief but thorough opening statement to tell the judge what your case is about.
  • Prepare a trial notebook that outlines each major aspect of your trial and what you need to do and say at each point. For example, you'll have a pretty good idea of what a witness for the other side will say at trial because before the trial you probably took the witness's deposition or asked written questions (called interrogatories). It's a good idea to use your trial notebook to prepare a carefully crafted outline of what you plan to ask each witness in court.
  • Check out Nolo's free articles Tips for Success in the Courtroom and Going to Court: Surviving the Courtroom.

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