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Representing yourself

In some court cases you can represent yourself, this page tells you when this is possible and also gives you some practical hints and tips.

Can I represent myself in court?

Yes - there's nothing to stop you from standing up and speaking for yourself in court if you can't find a solicitor or you'd rather do it yourself. If you decide to represent yourself in court, you'll be known as a 'party litigant'.

If your case is about housing law, it'll probably be dealt with in your local sheriff court. Our page on courts in Scotland has more information on the different kinds of courts in Scotland.

In some cases it's a good idea to get a solicitor to represent you because the court rules and procedure are quite complicated. For example, if your landlord is trying to evict you or if your case is being dealt with under summary cause or ordinary cause procedure. Appearing in court can also be quite a scary experience and you may not be able to present your case in the best light.

However, there's nothing to stop you representing yourself if you want to, or if you can't find a solicitor. Bear in mind that if you represent yourself in court without the right knowledge, you could find yourself in a worse situation and possibly lose your case. If you are going to represent yourself you should always get advice from a specialised adviser before going to court.

Some hints and tips

If you're thinking about representing yourself, bear in mind that appearing in court can be an intimidating and stressful experience, even if you have a solicitor representing you. So think carefully before deciding if you want to represent yourself!

If your problem is with your landlord or your local council for example, they will probably have a solicitor representing them. Judges and solicitors use technical legal language and, even if they try to explain what's going on. It can be confusing unless you've got legal training and knowledge of the court system. Some of the court procedures used in certain types of cases are difficult to understand and don't have any standard forms you can use so, unless you know what you're doing, it can be tricky to get everything right.

To make sure that you're successful in court it's a good idea to get guidance from an adviser first. They should be able to tell about how the courts in your area work and be able to give you some practical tips.

How will I know what to do at court?

Every court in Scotland works in a slightly different way so you should check what happens in your local court before the day you go.

If you're thinking about representing yourself in court, remember that courts (and sheriff courts in particular) are very busy places. They deal with loads of cases every day and most of them aren't about housing problems. They have to get through lots of court business and most solicitors will be dealing with several cases. If you explain to the court officials that you are representing yourself, they may be able to give you some help. However, remember that they're busy and it's your responsibility to find out where to go and to make sure that you're in the right court at the right time.

Your case will be 'called' in court. This means that your case is placed in a queue. You'll have to wait your turn (and it could be a long wait!) and not all court officials will actually shout out the name of your case so be careful not to miss your chance to have your say.

Our section on what happens in court explains what to expect in the courtroom, including who's who at court, what you should wear, and how to speak to the judge.

How do I contact my local court?

You can contact your local court by going to the Scottish Court Service website. On the same website, you can also try to find out which Sheriff will be deciding your case and when it's on the court agenda by checking the 'rolls of court'.

Worried about costs?

If you're thinking about representing yourself because you're worried you won't be able to pay for a solicitor, you might be surprised. You might be able to get legal aid to help with the cost of paying for a solicitor from the Scottish Legal Aid Board. The section on legal costs has more information on what financial help is available.

Can someone other than a solicitor to speak for me in court?

Sometimes, you can get an authorised representative or 'lay representative' to speak for you in court at certain stages of your case. For example, a lay representative could be an adviser from an agency or a support worker. Your representative doesn't have to have legal qualifications but you have to give them permission to speak on your behalf, usually in writing, and prepare your case before it goes to court. Preparation could include getting evidence together and submitting any documents, such as bank statements or your rent book, to the court. If the judge has any doubts about the person speaking on your behalf, they can tell that person to stop speaking.

Depending on where you live, you might be able to get help and/or representation from an in-court advice service.

If your case is very complicated, or gets beyond the 'first calling' stage, you'll have to get a solicitor to represent you.

Where can I find a solicitor?

If you've decided that you don't want to represent yourself in court, or if you need specialised legal advice, you can get in touch with a lawyer by contacting an advice agency, a law centre, the Law Society of Scotland or you could contact your local court to find out if there's an in-court advice service you can use.

Scotland map Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.
This content applies to Scotland only.
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