Representing yourself at trial can cost you in the long run

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By KYW Newsradio 1060
By Amy E. Feldman, Judge Technology Solutions
PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Lawyers will tell you that you shouldn't act as your own attorney. But can you? 

A lawyer who apparently underpaid his ex-paralegal by $300 now has to pay $100,000 because he represented himself after the paralegal filed a claim. 

The lawyer didn't normally practice litigation, so he didn't use a cover sheet that would have limited his potential damages. There are plenty of people, including lawyers and civilians, who think they could do a better job — or at least a less expensive one — than a real lawyer. 

Whether you should or not — and to be clear, you should not — are you allowed to represent yourself? You are allowed to represent yourself in a civil case, unless your insurance requires you to be represented. 

In a criminal case, you have a Sixth Amendment right to self-representation, but that right is not absolute. A judge can deny a request to defend oneself if the defendant doesn't have the mental capacity to do so, and the judge can put a stop to the self-representation once the trial starts if the defendant is disruptive. 

In any case, not having a lawyer with expertise in the area can prove more costly than the fees of hiring one, as the $100,000 mistake lawyer (as he likes to be known) can tell you.