Going to court without a solicitor or barrister
If you don't have a lawyer (a solicitor or barrister), you can take your own case or defend yourself in court or at a tribunal.
It's important to try to get proper legal help if you can. If you're on a low income, find out if you can get free or affordable legal advice.
If you're attending court as a witness, you can find out what will happen and what help you can get.
Coronavirus - if you’re going to court
Some courts are closed and others are changing the way they work, for example your hearing might happen over the phone or online.
You need to check how these changes will affect you on GOV.UK.
If the court hasn’t told you how to attend your hearing, contact them to find out. You can search for their contact details on GOV.UK.
Before taking legal action
Be realistic about whether you can get what you want if you take a case to court. If your dispute is about a misunderstanding or communication breakdown, court is usually not the best place to sort it out. It's usually better to try other options first.
Taking a case to court can be stressful. It can take a lot of time and money - for example, if you lose and you have to pay the other side's costs.
You can find out about alternatives to court action on Advice Now's website.
If you're trying to get money back
If you decide to go to court to claim money you're owed, it's known as a 'small claim'. You can find out more about making a small claim.
You can also find a guide to making a small claim on GOV.UK.
Check what help you can get
If you have to represent yourself in court, you'll be known as a 'litigant in person'. You might get advice about what legal points to raise in court - find out if you can get free or affordable legal advice.
If you want practical help during your court case, you can contact the Personal Support Unit. A Personal Support Unit volunteer can explain how the court works, listen to you and help with paperwork. They can't give you legal advice.
You can also find a guide to representing yourself on the Bar Council's website.
Taking someone with you to the hearing
You can take someone with you when the court deals with your case (this is known as the hearing). For example, you can take:
- a Citizens Advice adviser
- a Personal Support Unit volunteer
- a law centre worker
- a friend
- a family member
The person who comes with you is known as a 'McKenzie Friend'. They can give you support, take notes and help you with paperwork.
Ask if they can advise you on what's going on in court and on legal matters - they should be able to if they work for an organisation like a law centre.
You'll need to ask the court before the hearing if you want the person to speak for you. It's up to the judge to decide whether the person you bring can speak to the court for you.
Most charities, including law centres, offer free support. If you aren't sure, ask the person you want to take to court if you have to pay them. Even if you win your case, you won't be able to claim this cost. You should ask them about their experience and whether they have any qualifications before you decide to hire them.
Help with understanding English
If English isn't your first language, you might want to bring someone to tell you what's being said in your own language. You'll need to ask the court before the day of your hearing if you can do this.
Sometimes, courts can provide an interpreter - you should ask before the day of your hearing.
You can find out about interpreters in court on GOV.UK