A ‘litigant in person’ (LiP), or an unrepresented party can be an individual, company or organisation who has made a claim in court without the legal representation of a solicitor or barrister.
People often choose to be a LiP as they may believe it is better to speak directly to the judge, jury or magistrates, however in most cases it is sadly because people cannot afford the legal fees.
As a litigant in person, you may be allowed to have what is called a ‘McKenzie Friend’ in court with you at the discretion of the Judge. They can take notes and give advice but will not be able to speak on your behalf, sign documents or interfere with proceedings. Due to the marked decline in the availability of legal aid, there has been in a growth in McKenzie Friends which has promoted the government to explore changing the courts approach to them. The government consultation is ongoing (click on the link to review the Consultation paper published in February 2019).
If you are considering representing yourself in court, it is important to remember that the court won’t always make allowances for the fact that you aren’t legally qualified. Courts are busy places and whilst judges might be prepared to let certain formalities go, they must also be seen to be delivering justice.
Only last year, the Supreme Court heard a case – Barton v Wright Hassall  – which involved a LiP who hadn’t been permitted to bring his case because he’d failed to follow the correct court procedure. In that case, it was held that litigants in person don’t get ‘special dispensation’ for procedural failures.
In this case, the Supreme Court held that:
“Unless the rules and practice directions are particularly inaccessible or obscure, it is reasonable to expect a litigant in person to familiarise himself with the rules which apply to any step he is about to take.”
With this in mind, it is important if you are considering this route, to familiarise yourself with the procedures before doing so.
Legal aid is money provided by the government to cover legal costs for those who can’t afford them. Legal aid is not available for many areas of law anymore, and to be eligible for legal aid you need to be able to prove that your situation is serious, and you cannot afford to pay the fees yourself.
Due to these funding changes, the number of law firms taking legal aid cases has dropped by 20% across England. Changes in 2013 also meant some types of case were no longer eligible for public funds – including divorce, child contact, employment, and housing law, except in very limited circumstances.
The removal of legal aid from these cases has, understandably, resulted in a huge rise in the number of litigants in person, left navigating the complex world of law courts with no legal representation.
As a litigant in person, you can contact us for free legal advice on 0114 225 6666 or via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.