Worrying numbers of Australians are choosing to represent themselves in court and it is not resulting in successful outcomes in most cases. The 2012 'Unaffordable and out of reach' report on the problem of access to the Australian legal system reinforces the importance of law firms like Gerard Malouf and Partners offering no win, no fee guarantees as well as 90 day free trials.
It's a minefield for those with no lawyer
The report quotes George Brandis, who would become federal attorney-general, describing self-representation as a "minefield" in a quote given to The Australian. "Self-represented litigants, who cannot hope to master the procedural and substantive learning that lawyers spend years acquiring, themselves add to the cost and delays of litigation and exacerbate these problems for other litigants," Brandis said.
Stand up for your rights
The report says people who ask the government for legal aid funding to pay for their own defence often run into trouble. People trying to represent themselves find that "due to chronic funding shortages, ongoing help is often restricted to those on the lowest incomes, and then only for a limited range of mainly family law and criminal law issues." The report compares the right to have access to legal defence to a person's access to health and education and says a "safety net for legal help" is desirable. The report identifies the sorts of cases Gerard Malouf and Partners is adept with – discrimination, employment rights breaches, insurance battles and injuries – as examples of cases made difficult for plaintiffs who are being asked for fees up-front.
The report points out that most people do not budget for legal fees, even if they can see a marriage breakdown or employment dismissal coming up ahead. While a great legal team can pursue compensation for assault and injury, "For a mother escaping a violent partner and trying to protect herself and her children with an intervention order and appropriate family law orders […] the costs of paying for advice and taking action can be extremely prohibitive," the report says.
Ten years ago, a report called Justice Made To Measure put together by the NSW Law and Justice Foundation found, worryingly, that one-third of people did nothing in response to legal issues, while 16 per cent handled the issues on their own. Shockingly, 51 per cent of those surveyed said they sought help from friends, family and professionals like doctors – none of who are qualified legal professionals.
Even if you feel confident representing yourself, go and see a lawyer
The State Library of NSW offers a 130 page guide entitled 'How to run your own court case.' However, before commencing its detailed advice for readers in areas like Redfern, the guide directs readers to go and see people like the helpful staff at Gerard Malouf and Partners. "Use [this book] as a guide only," the guide urges readers on its second page, "And be sure to obtain legal advice for your specific legal problem."