The idea of representing yourself in court can be very daunting, especially if you are unfamiliar with the process and have not appeared in court before.
You might be suing another person – your claim might be against one or more individuals, or against a company. Alternatively, you might be defending a claim brought by somebody else.
A number of representatives can speak on your behalf in court and present your case in the best possible way. You provide instructions for them to act for you in front of the court and to pursue your case in a certain way. The representative will use their legal training and experience to secure the best possible outcome for you at the court hearing.
This article will focus on Civil cases, rather than Criminal or Family matters.
The term ‘lawyer’ includes different types of qualified legal professionals.
Barristers have the right to represent their clients in any court, before any sort of judge. Their work is mainly to provide representation and give specialist advice to clients.
Solicitors have the right to appear before a judge in any Tribunal, Magistrates’ Court or County Court. They will usually be the first point of contact that someone will approach for legal advice.
Solicitors do not automatically have the right to represent their clients in the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, Crown Court or the High Court. However, there are some solicitors who have also passed further exams and have ‘higher rights’, which is the ability to represent their clients in any court. They are called ‘Solicitor Advocates’.
CILEx professionals are members of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives. Fellows of CILEx who have passed their advocacy qualification have the same rights to represent you as solicitors do, so they can appear before any judge in the County Court or Magistrates’ Court.
Those mentioned above are all examples of ‘authorised persons’, who are qualified to represent you in court. They all have a ‘right of audience’ (the right to address the judge) in order to present your case.
Other options for representation
There are also several cases where you can be represented by an ‘exempt person’.
Exempt persons often already have an extensive legal educational background. It is common for them be close to qualifying as a solicitor or a barrister. An exempt person also has a right of audience in certain circumstances.
The exempt person needs to be supervised and instructed by a solicitor and their work should include assisting in the conduct of litigation, under the Legal Services Act 2007.
The case also has to be of the sort that would usually take place ‘in chambers’, which is sometimes expressed as being ‘in the judge’s room’. A judge’s room might be physically quite small, similar to an office. As long as the above criteria apply, then you can be represented in court by an exempt person. Commonly, they are known as ‘solicitor’s agents’.
It is impossible to give a complete list of all the different types of hearings which are held in chambers but one of the most common types of cases are Small Claims.
You might ask, ‘Who can represent me in ‘Small Claims Court’? This term is a slight misnomer, although it is used quite widely amongst the general public. If you have brought, or are facing, a claim for anything other than a personal injury where the value of the claim is anything up to £10,000, the case will usually be on the Small Claims Track. It will be heard in the County Court. A Small Claim takes places in chambers, under the Civil Procedure Rules.
If you are the person who is making the claim or defending it, you are a party to the claim. If you are one of the parties and you attend court yourself, you can be represented at a Small Claim by a lay representative. This could be anybody who accompanies you to court. They do not need to be legally trained or a qualified lawyer. They could be someone who has a legal background, such as a solicitor’s agent.
If you do not attend court yourself, you can also be represented at a Small Claim by a barrister, a solicitor, a legal executive, or a solicitor’s agent.
There are several options when deciding on who to represent you at court, especially in Civil cases. For several decades now, the choices of representatives has been broadening due to changes in the law which extended rights of audiences to more persons. It is therefore worth fully exploring the different options available before choosing who to be your representative.
Author: Michael Javaherian, LPC Law
DISCLAIMER: This article should not be regarded as constituting legal advice in relation to particular circumstances. It is merely a general comment on the relevant topic. If specific advice is required in connection with any of the matters covered in this article, please speak to LPC Law directly.