By Guest Blogger: V.K.
While working on a case recently, I went up to the law library at the courthouse to use one of their computers to make corrections to a settlement agreement I had been working on. During my time in the library, I noticed a gentleman with his two children sitting at a nearby table reviewing documents and looking very confused. He looked up every so often trying to make eye contact with someone – preferably an attorney. After I paid the law librarian for making some copies I walked by the gentlemen as I was curious to see why he was so confused. When he saw me he immediately asked if I had a moment. As it turns out, this individual was a pro se litigant having trouble filling out a basic hardship affidavit in order to waive his filing fees. I sat down and we quickly worked through the documents. I then took him to a courtroom to get the documents signed by a judge and entered with the court. The gentleman was very grateful and thanked me several times.
One of the harsh realities of our current economic times is that, like the gentleman above, a great number of people don’t have the money or resources for legal representation. As a result, these individuals have taken on the difficult and unenviable task of representing themselves.
As lawyers we often take many of the smallest tasks in our profession for granted. We perform legal research, draft pleadings and motions, prepare notices and conduct hearings as second nature. Unfortunately, the pro se litigant has to attempt to do these same tasks on their own without any legal training. The legal arena, particularly the courtroom can be an intimidating place – even for attorneys. How much more intimidating it must be for someone who does not have any legal education or background.
The law can be a demanding and rigorous field. Attorneys are constantly under pressure to perform. Nevertheless, we should still be mindful of trying to help others whenever possible, especially pro se litigants. Answering a question does not always mean that you’re giving legal advice! So the next time it looks like someone needs some help, don’t shy away from taking a couple of minutes from your busy schedule to lend a hand. A simple gesture can often make a big difference in someone else’s day.