A surge in the number of people representing themselves in court has prompted legal organisations to draft guidelines for lawyers who come up against people who find themselves in court without legal representation.
The guidelines have been developed by the Bar Council, Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) and the Law Society in response to the rising numbers of people representing themselves in court without a lawyer as a result of cuts to legal aid, the increase in the small-claims limit and the introduction of employment tribunal fees.
The practical guidelines are relevant to the civil and family courts and tribunals where there has been an influx of people who cannot afford to instruct a lawyer, have not been able to obtain free legal advice and often have no alternative other than to embark on 'do it yourself' justice.
The guidelines discuss how far lawyers can help unrepresented people without this conflicting with their duties to their own clients. Lawyers are advised to communicate clearly and avoid technical language or legal jargon, or to explain any jargon to the unrepresented party where it cannot be avoided.
Law Society president Andrew Caplen said: 'Cuts to legal aid and increases in court fees have forced more and more people into 'do it yourself' justice, where they find themselves dealing with unfamiliar procedures in busy courtrooms whilst trying to resolve often life-changing issues regarding their families, their homes and their futures. We recognise the difficulties that people face in these circumstances and the consequent challenges created for lawyers acting for represented parties. We hope that these guidelines will help everyone concerned with cases involving self-represented litigants, but would again emphasise that the cuts to legal aid need to be urgently reviewed by the incoming parliament.'
For further information visit www.cilex.org.uk