4 Tips for Representing Yourself in a California Court

Are you representing yourself in court? You are not alone. According to a 2020 report by the Self-Represented Litigation Network, 60-100% of cases involve at least one pro se (self-represented) party in family, housing, and consumer litigation matters. If all of your legal knowledge comes from your favorite crime drama, then you can be caught off guard when representing yourself in court. I’ve compiled a list of free resources and tips to serve as a starting point for self-represented litigants. 

  • Get familiar with legal terms.

Confused by legalese? Use Nolo’s Free Dictionary Of Law Terms and Legal Definitions or The Law Dictionaryfeaturing Black’s Law Dictionary to gain a better understanding of the specialized terminology used within legal documents. 

  • Visit your court’s self-help center. 

Many California courts have self-help centers that are staffed by attorneys and other court personnel who can assist you with child custody and divorce, landlord/tenant issues, small claims and more. The California Court’s website has an online Self-Help Center that contains a compilation of information and resources, including instructional guides, forms, and answers to FAQs.  

  • Utilize public law libraries.

Visit the California County Public Law Libraries website for access to free legal information. They also have a live chat available with reference librarians.

The Southern California Association of Law Libraries publishes a free handbook called Locating the Law, A Handbook for Non-Law Librarians on their website. Notable chapters include “Assisting Self-Represented Litigants in California” and “Bibliography of Self-Help Resources.” 

  • Take steps to avoid fraud.

Many scammers prey on self-represented parties. Immigration scams are particularly rampant. Visit the Federal Trade Commission’s website for consumer information about Immigration scams. You can find other common scams here: Scam Alerts Via LawHelpCa.org

Representing yourself in court can be intimidating, but knowledge is the key to feeling confident. 


Information provided through this post has been taken from self-help informational publications provided by the Court or other legal sources believed to be reliable. This information is general, published, factual information and should not be cited on or relied on as legal authority, nor should it be considered legal advice.

Leave a Comment