How to file a lawsuit without a lawyer

How to file a lawsuit without a lawyer

9 Things to Do or Consider before You File a Lawsuit

So you’re ready to file a lawsuit (or you think you are). Below are a few things you may want to consider before you take the plunge to file a lawsuit.

1. Determine what “causes of action” to file

2. Determine possible defenses

There are two types of defenses: Legal and factual. Your attorney will figure out the potential legal defenses, which can include tons of things you may have not thought about – special privileges, waivers, estoppel, etc. – as well as the statute of limitations for each cause of action. It is important that, if you file a lawsuit, you do it within the applicable statute of limitations.

Meanwhile, you should be thinking about factual defenses. What witnesses will the Defendant call to disprove your claims? What documents will they show? If you have these documents, your attorney needs to see them.

3. Collect evidence

Once you get a list of the things you will have to prove, based on the causes of action, and the things you may have to disprove, based on potential defenses, you’ll need to start collecting evidence. If you think a piece of potential evidence has any relation to proving your claims or you damages, collect it. You’ll need letters, emails, contracts, voicemails, photographs, and more.

It is important to know, early, whether you will be able to collect evidence. If you do not have any evidence, your suit may come down to a he-said, she-said dispute, which increases your risks of loss after you file a lawsuit.

4. Collect witnesses

In addition to documentary evidence, you’ll also need to collect witnesses. Get their names, addresses, telephone numbers, email addresses, and any other contact information. Find out what they would say, and, if possible, get them to write it down. See if they have any photographs, emails, etc.

In addition to lay witnesses, you may also need expert witnesses. Your attorney can help you determine what points of your claims you may need an expert witness to help prove.

5. Consider: Might the Defendant sue you back?

This is something to consider. Every time you file a complaint, there is a potential that the Defendant might file a Counterclaim, or Countersuit, basically, suing you back. Think about any reason you think the Defendant might have to sue you and discuss them with your attorney.

I have represented Defendants in many cases where plaintiffs file a lawsuit that is so frivolous that my client has more claims against the Plaintiff; in these instances, sometimes, on their behalf, I will help file a counterclaim. In some of these cases, the entire lawsuit is turned around and the Plaintiff ends up paying the Defendant. So – be careful – if you want to file suit, consider whether it can also happen to you.

6. Evaluate your chances of winning

This is very important, and often it will consider reviewing all the applicable evidence. It is also something that may change depending on new evidence discovered, new defenses being raised, and other factors.

In most cases, when you file a lawsuit, it is like you’re gambling. You never know what cards the Defendant will lay on the table, or what the Defendant will hold. You don’t know what the judge will do or say. Because of these unknown variables, it is good to have a good estimate of the odds before you determine whether to roll the dice.

7. Evaluate the Defendant’s collectability (is it worth it?)

Even if you can obtain a judgment for a million dollars – sure, that’s great – however, can you collect on it? Does the Defendant have any money or other assets that would not be considered exempt?

Another risk is – what if the Defendant files bankruptcy? I’ve seen plaintiffs spend lots of money to obtain a favorable money judgment against a Defendant who then files bankruptcy – it’s a huge buzz kill.

8. Determine why you really want to file a lawsuit

This is important: Why do you want to sue? Do you want justice? Do you want your money back? Do you want to just imagine the look on the Defendant’s face when they get served?

Most lawsuits are usually filed for one of two reasons: money or principal. In many cases, it is a combination of the two. However, the more money you spend in litigation, you may become less principal-motivated and more money-motivated.

You also may be in a situation where you’re not suing for money but rather for injunctive relief – getting someone to do something or to stop doing something.

Regardless, determining what you really want and evaluating those wants is very important at this stage.

9. Explore other alternatives to getting what you want

Once you figure you figure out what it really is that you want, see if there is any other way to get it. Before you jump into the expense and stress of litigation, it is usually wise to start with something like a demand letter, which is a letter to say: (1) You’re serious; (2) This is what you want, and (3) If you don’t get what you want, you’ll sue. The risk is minimal in comparison to when you file a lawsuit, and the chances of achieving results are not that bad.

Other alternatives include simply talking to the opposing party – one and one – without attorneys, and trying to work it out. Or, if the two parties cannot agree, you may want to consider meeting in front of a professional mediator for pre-suit mediation. A mediation can result in an agreement, drafted by and between the parties, that will be binding on both of you.

How to file a lawsuit without a lawyer

How To File A Lawsuit Without A Lawyer

Everyone wants to avoid a lawsuit. Unfortunately, that isn’t always possible. Whether you are being sued by an unscrupulous debt collector, or a business associate has reneged on a contract, sometimes we are forced to get involved in the civil court system.

In these situations, having a competent attorney by your side is always a good idea. But what happens when you can’t afford to spend $10,000-$20,000 on an attorney? With access to free legal services being woefully inadequate, many people have no choice but to represent themselves in court. Fortunately, this is not nearly as difficult as you may think.

Once you understand the basic process and learn a few legal terms, you will see that the legal system is primarily based on simple common sense. Anyone can learn how to file a lawsuit without a lawyer!

5 Steps To Filing A Lawsuit

How to file a lawsuit without a lawyer

The 5 basic steps to any civil lawsuit in the United States include the following:

1. Filing A Civil Complaint

2. Serving The Summons And Complaint

3. Filing An Answer

4. Discovery

5. Trial

Drafting the Complaint

How to file a lawsuit without a lawyer

As mentioned above, the complaint is the document in which you lay out the allegations against the defendant and allege how you have been harmed. Keep in mind that you do not need to try and prove your allegations in the complaint. You are only alleging what happened. Of course, to ultimately prevail at trial, you will definitely need to offer evidence that supports the claims you initially make in your complaint.

However, simply alleging that you have been harmed is not quite enough. You must allege a type of harm that your state specifically recognizes as a recoverable claim for relief.

Some examples of common claims for relief are:

  • Breach of Contract
  • Negligence
  • Unpaid Wages
  • Wrongful Termination
  • Race/Sex Discrimination
  • Disability Discrimination
  • Battery
  • Trespass
  • Nuisance
  • Defamation (slander/libel)

Once the elements of a claim are known, they need to be written up in a complaint in the proper format. If your complaint is not formatted correctly, it may be rejected by the court clerk! Complaints in most U.S. states have the following format:

  1. Heading with basic information about the case.
  2. Statement of jurisdiction.
  3. ‘Facts Alleged’, wherein the plaintiff alleges all the facts that constitute the elements of their claims.
  4. ‘Claims for Relief’ where the plaintiff states how the allegations, if proven, will constitute a legally cognizable claim.
  5. ‘Prayer for Relief’, where the plaintiff asks the court to award a specific remedy, such as economic or non-economic damages.

Sending and Responding to Requests For Production

How to file a lawsuit without a lawyer

After the complaint and answer have been filed, both sides will engage in ’Discovery’, where they are required to disclose information to each other. These disclosures are usually made by each party sending the other a ‘Request for Production of Documents’ wherein they ask for specific documents that are relevant to the case.

Trial

How to file a lawsuit without a lawyer

After the discovery period is over, a case will go to trial or arbitration, where each side will plead their case in front of a judge or jury. The plaintiff will present their case first, introducing physical evidence (such as documents) and witness testimony. The defendant will be able to object to any evidence they feel does not comply with state law and they will also be able to cross-examine the plaintiff’s witnesses.

After the plaintiff rests their case, the defendant will put on their own case in the same manner. Then, the judge or jury will decide who prevails on each claim for relief.

Conclusion

As you can see, that basics of filing a lawsuit are not complicated. Of course, it is impossible to cover all the details of a lawsuit in one article, but all civil lawsuits in the United States will have the same format as described above. If you can understand these concepts, you will be able to competently represent yourself in a civil lawsuit.

Lawsuitforms.org offers comprehensive form packages for filing lawsuits in California, Florida, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas. Each form package includes instructions, samples, and templates. Click on the form packages below for more information.

Our forms and guides will give you the tools you need to represent yourself in court. All our products are currently 20% for a limited time! File your lawsuit today!

How to file a lawsuit without a lawyer

How To File A Lawsuit Without An Attorney

Everyone wants to avoid a lawsuit. Unfortunately, that isn’t always possible. Whether you are being sued by an unscrupulous debt collector, or a business associate has reneged on a contract, sometimes we are forced to get involved in the civil court system by filing or responding to a lawsuit.

In these situations, having a competent attorney by your side is always a good idea. But what happens when you can’t afford to spend $10,000-$20,000 on an attorney? With access to free legal services being woefully inadequate, many people have no choice but to represent themselves in court. Fortunately, this is not nearly as difficult as you may think.

Once you understand the basic process and learn a few legal terms, you will see that the legal system is primarily based on simple common sense. Anyone can learn how to file a lawsuit without an attorney!

5 Steps To Filing A Lawsuit

How to file a lawsuit without a lawyer

The 5 basic steps to any civil lawsuit in the United States include the following:

1. Filing A Civil Complaint

2. Serving The Summons And Complaint

3. Filing An Answer

4. Discovery

5. Trial

Drafting the Complaint

How to file a lawsuit without a lawyer

As mentioned above, the complaint is the document in which you lay out the allegations against the defendant and allege how you have been harmed. Keep in mind that you do not need to try and prove your allegations in the complaint. You are only alleging what happened. Of course, to ultimately prevail at trial, you will definitely need to offer evidence that supports the claims you initially make in your complaint.

However, simply alleging that you have been harmed is not quite enough. You must allege a type of harm that your state specifically recognizes as a recoverable claim for relief.

Some examples of common claims for relief are:

  • Breach of Contract
  • Negligence
  • Unpaid Wages
  • Wrongful Termination
  • Race/Sex Discrimination
  • Disability Discrimination
  • Battery
  • Trespass
  • Nuisance
  • Defamation (slander/libel)

Once the elements of a claim are known, they need to be written up in a complaint in the proper format. If your complaint is not formatted correctly, it may be rejected by the court clerk! Complaints in most U.S. states have the following format:

  1. Heading with basic information about the case.
  2. Statement of jurisdiction.
  3. ‘Facts Alleged’, wherein the plaintiff alleges all the facts that constitute the elements of their claims.
  4. ‘Claims for Relief’ where the plaintiff states how the allegations, if proven, will constitute a legally cognizable claim.
  5. ‘Prayer for Relief’, where the plaintiff asks the court to award a specific remedy, such as economic or non-economic damages.

Sending and Responding to Requests For Production

How to file a lawsuit without a lawyer

After the complaint and answer have been filed, both sides will engage in ’Discovery’, where they are required to disclose information to each other. These disclosures are usually made by each party sending the other a ‘Request for Production of Documents’ wherein they ask for specific documents that are relevant to the case.

Trial

How to file a lawsuit without a lawyer

After the discovery period is over, a case will go to trial or arbitration, where each side will plead their case in front of a judge or jury. The plaintiff will present their case first, introducing physical evidence (such as documents) and witness testimony. The defendant will be able to object to any evidence they feel does not comply with state law and they will also be able to cross-examine the plaintiff’s witnesses.

After the plaintiff rests their case, the defendant will put on their own case in the same manner. Then, the judge or jury will decide who prevails on each claim for relief.

Conclusion

As you can see, that basics of filing a lawsuit are not complicated. Of course, it is impossible to cover all the details of a lawsuit in one article, but all civil lawsuits in the United States will have the same format as described above. If you can understand these concepts, you will be able to competently represent yourself in a civil lawsuit.

Lawsuitforms.org offers easy to use form packages for filing a civil complaint in Georgia, Illinois, North Carolina, and Oregon. Each form package includes instructions, samples, and templates that will enable you to file a civil lawsuit on your own. Click on the form packages below for more information.

Our forms and guides will give you the tools you need to represent yourself in court. All our products are currently 20% for a limited time! File your lawsuit today!

Home » Free Resources » F.A.Q. » How Do I Start a Lawsuit Without a Lawyer?

How to file a lawsuit without a lawyer

To start a lawsuit without a lawyer, you may need to file a verified complaint, along with the specified filing fee. It is the same first step that a lawyer may take in commencing a lawsuit. This step is immediately followed by the filing of a civil summons form.

How to File a Verified Complaint

The complaint serves as the foundation for your lawsuit. It should be organized, factual, and accurate. Within this document, you may explain your claim or cause of action to the defendant (the party you are suing).

Information you provide in the complaint may become the basis for your demand in this civil action. It may outline under numbered and clear terms the events you intend to prove with defined and separate causes of action.

Following this outline, you may insert the “wherefore clause.” This statement specifies the amount of compensation you are seeking, in terms of money, for at least one of the causes of action in your outline.

Finally, you may verify that all the information you are providing is true under the penalty of perjury.

How to File a Civil Summons

You may have to complete a civil summons form, a document that can be found on the United States Courts website, in which you specify the location and the district of the court through which you are filing your lawsuit. This form will also list the name(s) of the Plaintiff (which is you) and the Defendant(s). New York courts also accept Blumberg Form T1480 or T1464, according to the New York State Unified Court System.

The summons will subsequently need to be signed (issued) by a lawyer, court clerk, or judge. Typically, plaintiffs who represent themselves may ask the court clerk to issue their summons.

Next, you may pay a filing fee, and then you will need to make the arrangements to have your civil summons and the verified complaint served on the defendant in your case.

How to Serve the Defendant

The court clerk may not advise you on how to serve papers to the defendant. You may be legally required to follow specific procedures in this process, depending on the types of papers you are serving. In some cases, the court may direct you with a specific method of service, with which you must comply. As the plaintiff, you may not be permitted to serve the defendant personally, but you may hire a professional process server to handle the matter, or you may ask another party who is not involved in your action to serve the papers provided they are over the age of 18 years old.

You do not Need a Lawyer, but You may Want One

Before you take either step, you should consider getting to know more about your rights to file a lawsuit under the New York statute. There is much more to “having a case” than suffering an injury and believing somebody should pay for it.

Before you begin to draft your complaint, you may need to identify the precise legal wrong that forms the basis of your lawsuit. Next, you may have to start digging for the appropriate elements of your case. For example, in a personal injury case, you may need to be able to prove that the person you want to hold liable acted negligently and that this negligence led to your injury. Knowing what New York courts look for in terms of supporting evidence may be vital in building your case.

Furthermore, if your case makes it to court, you may need to know how court proceedings work. The New York State Unified Court System actually requires that plaintiffs who want to go to court without a lawyer “must be fully versed in court procedure, trial, and evidentiary rules.”

Keep in mind that once you are in the courtroom, you are on your own. Court staff is forbidden by law to provide you with any legal advice on your case or the proceedings.

A Products Liability Lawyer may be Able to Help You With Your Lawsuit

If you have suffered a personal injury due to another party’s negligence, you may be able to file a lawsuit aimed at getting the at-fault party to cover your damages. Be forewarned that a successful lawsuit may hinge on the proper handling of many different moving parts. Missing an important piece in your case may mean a negative outcome for your lawsuit, as simply missing a deadline could end in the dismissal of your case.

How to file a lawsuit without a lawyer

When you’ve been wronged in any way, an instinct is to want to defend yourself. Unfortunately, with the rise of Corporate America, consumers are experiencing mistakes at an increased level — leading to an increase in small claims suits against companies.

Many people choose to sue using an attorney, believing that their options are limited. Sometimes people spend more money on an attorney than they receive in their small claims suit. Below, find out what a small claims suit is, how you can represent yourself legally and how DoNotPay streamlines this process.

What are Small Claims Suits?

Small Claims Suits are lawsuits filed through Small Claims Court — a special division of the judicial system that intends to help parties who do not have personal attorneys resolve disputes quickly, in a budget-friendly manner.

Legal representation without a lawyer is simple — often, there is a misconception that your options are limited and that your rights are not exercised without a lawyer representing your case. This is false.

Confronting damages can be difficult, but understanding how to sue a company without a lawyer is simple. With the help of DoNotPay, an easily accessible web browser service and app, an automated lawsuit can be generated at your fingertips.

When Can You Sue a Company?

  • Breaking an Agreement. If you had a written or oral contract with a company, you can sue for violation of that contract.
  • Wrongful Termination. If you have been wrongfully terminated by your place of employment, you can sue your employer in small claims court for damages.
  • Harassment. If you have experienced harassment at work or a particular company, you can sue the company for damages that relate to harassment.
  • Damaging Personal Property. If your personal property has been damaged at work, you might be eligible for a settlement based on damages incurred.
  • Owing Money. If a company owes you compensation, you could sue for loss of wages/failure to compensate.
  • Suffering a Physical Injury. If you suffer a physical injury that has had lasting effects, you can sue for damages related to injuries.
  • Suffering a Mental Injury. If you have experienced mental trauma, you might be eligible to sue for damages relating to mental trauma in small claims court.
  • Infringement. If your copyrighted personal or intellectual property has been copied, you can sue for damages that relate to copyright infringement.

How to Prepare For a Lawsuit?

Although suing a company applies to a wide spectrum of cases, it is important to consider three details that directly relate to your specific case before proceeding with an independent suit.

  • Negotiation
  • Mediation
  • Arbitration

Suing is typically a last resort when all of the above have been exhausted.

  • Will you lose more than you’ll earn?

This is an important question to ask — often, small claims with legal representation are expensive and have a greater cost than the payoff of winning a lawsuit.

What are the Steps to Follow?

Follow these three steps to sue a company:

  • File a Verified Complaint. Draft a document explaining your claim, cause of action, and purpose to the company you are suing.
  • File a Civil Summons. You may need to complete a civil summons form, a document that can be found on many state courts’ websites. The summons will need to be signed (issued) by a lawyer, court clerk, or judge. You might be entitled to ask the court clerk to issue your summons.
  • Serve the Defendant. Legally, you might be required to follow specific procedures. Typically, most individuals hire a non-affiliated person to serve the other group their papers.

Unfortunately, self-guided small claims suits are often unsuccessful. As a solution to this issue, DoNotPay provides an automated lawsuit generator, with foolproof technology that makes suing concise. Explore the benefits of this innovative system below!

Sue A Company Through DoNotPay Today

DoNotPay is the perfect way to successfully file a small-claims suit that will be successful! All you need to do is:

  1. Log on to DoNotPay on any web browser and select “Sue Now”
  2. Enter the dollar amount that you are owed (this could be lost wages or even adequate compensation to cover injuries and medical bills)
  3. Select whether you’d like to receive a demand letter or court filing forms
  4. Describe your reason for filing the lawsuit, and submit any additional details (including your photo evidence)

That’s all! With DoNotPay, the process of suing any company is covered in an instant! DoNotPay will generate a demand letter or court filing forms for you, and a copy of your demand letter will even be mailed to the business you are suing!

Who Else Has DoNotPay Helped Sue?

DoNotPay has a track record of helping people sue big corporations ! Our process is simple and easy which makes it suitable if you prefer hassle-free suing in small claims court. Some of the companies include:

  • ATT
  • Uber
  • Verizon
  • Insurance companies
  • Airlines
  • And so much more!

The pro se information on the Court’s website is specifically for individuals who are representing themselves in the Northern District of Florida without the assistance of an attorney. It is intended as an informative and practical resource for pro se litigants, and is not a substitute for legal advice from an experienced attorney. The information is procedural in nature and should be read in conjunction with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the local rules of this Court. In addition, the links to other websites are for information purposes only, and the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida is not responsible for the accuracy of the information contained on other websites.

What does it mean to appear pro se?

Although the majority of individuals, also known as “litigants” or “parties,” appearing before this court are represented by attorneys, a small percentage appears pro se. Litigants or parties representing themselves in court without the assistance of an attorney are known as pro se litigants. “Pro se” is Latin for “in one’s own behalf.”

The right to appear pro se in a civil case in federal court is contained in a statute 28 U.S.C. § 1654. Thus, anyone can appear pro se, and anyone who appears before the Court without an attorney is considered pro se. However, there are certain limitations to self-representation, such as:

  • Corporations and partnerships must be represented by counsel. Parties planning to begin or defend an action on behalf of a corporation or partnership may not appear pro se in the Northern District of Florida, and must be represented by an attorney.
  • Similarly, a pro se litigant may not act as a class representative in a class action. Therefore a pro se litigant may not bring a class action.
  • Furthermore, a non-attorney parent may not appear pro se on behalf of a child, except to appeal the denial of social security benefits to such child.

How do I start a new lawsuit without an attorney?

A lawsuit is commenced by the filing of a complaint. The Northern District of Florida requires pro se litigants to submit their complaint to the Clerk’s Office, along with the civil case filing fee or, if they are unable to pay the filing fee, they may request a fee waiver by filing an application to proceed in forma pauperis. Prisoners who are unable to pay the filing fee should file a prisoner application to proceed in forma pauperis.

The Clerk’s Office provides complaint forms that litigants should use to file an action. For types of actions for which a form is not available, litigants must write their own complaint in English on 8-1/2″ x 11″ paper.

A hand-written complaint should generally follow the format of the civil rights complaint form and must contain the following:

  1. A caption containing the names of the parties in the upper left-hand corner,
  2. The word “COMPLAINT” immediately below the caption,
  3. A statement of jurisdiction and venue (Explain)
  4. A statement of facts
  5. A statement of the claim
  6. The remedy requested
  7. The words “JURY DEMANDED” if the party wants the case decided by a jury trial
  8. The party’s signature, printed name, address, and telephone number

As a pro se litigant, you may pay the filing fee and deliver the complaint to the Clerk’s Office in person or mail the complaint and filing fee to the Clerk’s Office in the division in which you are filing your case. The Judge may direct the Clerk’s Office to issue a summons and then direct the plaintiff to serve the complaint on the defendant(s) as will be explained in a court order. For all cases, whether submitted to the Clerk’s Office by mail or delivered to the Clerk’s Office in person, the Clerk’s Office will review all documents for completeness. Once the documents have been reviewed, a case number has been assigned, and the case has been assigned to a magistrate judge of this Court, the Clerk’s Office will instruct the litigant via mail on how to proceed.

It is extremely important for all pro se litigants to inform the Clerk’s Office (as well as the other parties in the lawsuit) of any change of address immediately so that legal mail regarding the case can be sent to the correct address. All change of address notifications must be submitted in writing, using the notice of change of address.

How to file a lawsuit without a lawyer

It goes without saying that in order to represent a party in court, she has to know about it, right?

Sure, it’s not a hard-and-fast rule. After all, members of a certified class aren’t universally notified before a suit is filed. But even then, the named plaintiffs (or class representatives) are aware of the lawsuit and have consented to representation. And the class members are given a chance to opt-out.

In one of the oddest cases we’ve ever heard of, a Utah attorney filed a class action lawsuit, without ever bothering to meet, contact, or obtain the consent of his so-called clients, Amy N. Fowler and Pidge Winburn. The suit, which argued that the ongoing efforts to block gay marriage were resulting in emotional distress, was filed against the State of Utah and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints late last month. The named plaintiffs, one of whom is an attorney, were previously featured in a front-page story on gay marriage and did not know of the lawsuit’s existence before being contacted by a reporter, reports the Deseret News.

Lawyer: No Permission Needed

E. Craig Smay, the attorney behind the lawsuit, told The Salt Lake Tribune that he did not need the client’s permission, and that he had explained as much to Fowler via email. He also stated that, “She can file [for dismissal] until the cows come home. She’s wasting her time and she’s wasting my time,” and admitted that he obtained the couple’s names from the newspaper article.

File she did. By Thursday evening, the lawsuit was dismissed by the court. Fowler also told the Tribune that she had filed a complaint with the state bar and that she had not received any email from Smay.

The Tribune cites multiple legal experts who all agree: you need consent (or the court’s permission) to represent a client. Duh. Based on the prompt dismissal of the case, we’d guess that the court agreed as well.

One of the experts also pointed out another semi-obvious tidbit: this lawsuit is ridiculous. Smay is suing the state for appealing a court decision based on a question of unsettled law. (And the First Amendment-protected church has nothing to do with the original lawsuit.) Again, duh. Then again, are we surprised that a lawsuit, filed without the clients’ consent or awareness, has questionable legal merit?

What Was He Thinking?

Your guess is as good as ours. Maybe he was hoping that no one would notice, and that he could substitute in consenting plaintiffs at a later time. He did mention, to the Tribune, that he would substitute out Fowler and Winburn “when we have someone else to substitute in.” Or maybe he was hoping that he could convince the clients after-the-fact. Too bad one of them was an attorney.

Whatever his thought process was, we can’t wait to see the state bar’s reaction.

Question: Hi, Alan. I filed a Charge of Discrimination with the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) against my employer because I was being bullied by my boss, along with being treated differently from other co-workers in my department on several levels.

I received from the EEOC a “Right to Sue Letter” a month and a half ago, and my time is running out to file my Federal discrimination lawsuit. However, no attorney around these parts will take the case because I was not fired and I think they do not want to go up against my employer because they are well known around these parts.

What can I do next?

Brenda
Rantoul, Illinois

Answer: Dear Brenda: Our society helps those in your circumstances to get your “day in Court” in several ways:

1. Your best bet would be to contact the “Pro Se Law Clerk” for the Federal District Court nearest you. When the EEOC issues a “Right to Sue Letter” you then have ninety (90) days in which to file your lawsuit in your local Federal District Court. Each of the Federal Districts Courts has at least one “Pro Se” Law Clerk to assist individuals, like you, who do not have attorneys representing them. “Pro Se” is a Latin phrase that means “For Oneself” and a Pro Se Law Clerk’s sole job is to assist individuals in your circumstances in filing and maintaining a lawsuit by yourself.

The staff of the Pro Se Law Clerk in your Federal District Court can help you by answering questions about forms, deadlines and procedures, but they are prohibited from giving you actual legal advice. Most have a ready supply of forms for your use to fill in, or model your Court materials from, as well as written guides to filing your case without an attorney.

The Pro Se Law Clerk’s office cannot, however, (a) recommend a legal course of action, (b) predict how a Judge or Court will decide any issue, (c) interpret the meaning of a Judicial Order, or (d) interpret the law, legal doctrines, or cases for you.

To contact the Pro Se Law Clerk for the Northern District of Illinois, which is your Federal District, you can call (312) 435-5691.

2. Additionally, Law School “Student Law Clinics” often provide supervised law students to assist those without attorneys in matters such as yours. Many law schools have “Law Clinics” which are comprised of law students, acting under the supervision of clinical teachers, Law Professors and experienced attorneys. Law Clinics commonly assist those without attorneys deal with either the Court system or government agencies while giving students practical training intended to help them develop effective advocacy skills.

In your area, The University of Chicago Law School is home to many student legal clinics, including one that might just be best for you: the “Employment Discrimination Project.” To contact them at the University of Chicago Law School, go to www.law.uchicago.edu/clinics/Mandel/employment or dial (773) 702-9494.

3. A third approach would be to try to obtain an attorney’s guidance and assistance – even if it is not representation – by means of a Bar Association’s “Pro Bono” assistance programs. Many states and local bar associations suggest – and some even require – that their attorney-members engage in what is called “pro bono public” legal efforts. “Pro bono publico” (or “pro bono” for short) means “for the public good.” You might try to locate an attorney who is interested in your case, or the issues you raise, who will either take on your case, or act as a legal advisor to coach and mentor you through the federal lawsuit process.

Though most attorneys are quite busy in their own law practices, (a) younger lawyers seeking experience, (b) older lawyers who are retired or semi-retired, and (c) many other lawyers who are seeking experience in a new area of law, may be willing to assist you without charge, or for a reduced charge.

I would suggest you consider this way of moving forward, and contacting the Illinois State Bar Association at (217) 525-1760, or visit their “LawyerFinder” website at www.illinoislawyerfinder.com.

4. While I am sure representing yourself sure sounds difficult, intimidating and complex, the Federal Courts are really quite patient, accommodating, and understanding with people who cannot locate or cannot afford attorneys, and so represent themselves in Court. I must admit that I am almost always quite impressed at how kind, helpful and compassionate most Federal Court personnel – and most especially Federal Judges – are to people in your circumstances. With lawyers, while always polite and gracious, Court personnel can be a bit “unforgiving,” but with non-lawyers they really are quite wonderful. I have seen just super-human patience and compassion shown to those who have the courage and conviction to represent themselves in Court – which is their right to do. I think representing yourself in Federal Court might be a daunting challenge, it might, too, be a wonderful and inspiring experience for you.

And what an advantage you have over attorneys: you cannot be disbarred! (Just joking.)

5. No matter what you do, Brenda, you cannot miss your deadline for filing your lawsuit – there will be no “second chance” given to you. One thing I do want to share with you, Brenda, is that your deadline for filing your Federal Court Complaint (what we lawyers call the “Statute of Limitations”) is not flexible, but entirely strict and unforgiving. Read the instructions carefully on your “Right to Sue Letter” issued to you by the U.S. EEOC, because it sets forth your Statute of Limitations for filing your Federal Court Complaint. Even if it is not perfect, complete or exactly what you’d like it to say, I do recommend you do not permit yourself to miss that deadline, because to do so is, what in law we call “fatal to your claim.” After filing, within a reasonable period of time you will be able to file an Amended Complaint, but only if you met your deadline with your initial Complaint.

Brenda, I admire and respect you for standing up for yourself, and persevering. The world surely needs more people like you!! I hope this answer has been helpful to you.

My best to you,
Al Sklover

P.S.: If you would like to obtain a list of five or more experienced, “employee-side” employment attorneys in the Chicago area, just [click here].

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