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(Britain) Litigants in Person (LIPs)

A Litigant in Person (LIP) is another term for a Self-Represented Litigant. Both represent themselves in court, rather than have a lawyer represent them.

The following is from Britain and NOT ALL of it will be relevant to Australia - in particular specific legislative and court procedures.

However, the article does contain useful general information that is worth taking into account when considering your preparing your own case (and/or representing yourself).

Additionally, anyone considering going down this path is recommended to join the Self-Represented Litigants - Resources group here on the Family Law Web Guide and at http://www.srl-resources.org/.
A litigant in person has to be their own advocate and should ensure that the court is informed of all relevant decisions and enactments of which you are aware (whether favourable or not to your case) and to draw the court's attention to any material irregularity. You really need to do your homework very thoroughly and become your own expert.
http://www.elc.org.uk/pages/lawlips.htm

Litigants in Person (LIPs) - AKA Self-Represented Litigants (SRLs)

Topics

- Abourt LIPs
- Preparing a chronology
- Preparing a skeleton argument
- Preparing bundle for court
- Reoverable cost for LIPs
- Access to Justice - Lord Woolf
- McKenzie Friend
- Judges guide to LIPs
- LIPS - tips
- Witnesses and witness statements

Help with Law - About LIPs (NB Procedures vary in Australia.)

Litigants in person should, unless they have good reason for not doing so:

(1) prepare a written summary of their argument in the same circumstances as those in which a represented party is required to produce a skeleton argument;

(2) prepare a bundle of documents in the same way that a represented party is required to produce a bundle of documents; and

(3) be prepared to put forward their argument within a limited time if they are directed to do so by the court.

This means that litigants in person should identify in advance of the hearing those points which they consider to be their strongest points, and that they should put those points at the forefront of their oral and written submissions to the court.

It is not the function of court officials to give legal advice. However, subject to that, they sometimes assist litigants. Litigants in person who need further assistance should contact the Community Legal Service through their Information Points. The CLS are developing local networks of people giving legal assistance such as law centres, local solicitors or the Citizens' Advice Bureaux. CLS Information Points are being set up in libraries and other public places. Litigants can telephone the CLS to find their nearest CLS Information Point on 0845 608 1122 or can log on to the CLS website at www.justask.org.uk for the CLS directory and for legal information.

The RCJ Advice Bureau off the Main Hall at the Royal Courts of Justice is open from Monday to Friday from 10 am to 1 pm and from 2 pm to 5 pm. The bureau is run by lawyers in conjunction with the Citizens' Advice Bureau and is independent of the court. The Bureau operates on a "first come first served" basis, or telephone advice is available on 0845 120 3715 (or 020 7947 6880) from Monday to Friday between 11 am and 12 noon and between 3 and 4 pm. Do note though they are not always helpful and often have difficulty in answering questions raised.

Where a litigant in person is the applicant, the court may ask one of the represented parties to open the matter briefly and impartially, and to summarise the issues.

A litigant in person has to be their own advocate and should ensure that the court is informed of all relevant decisions and enactments of which you are aware (whether favourable or not to your case) and to draw the court's attention to any material irregularity. You really need to do your homework very thoroughly and become your own expert.

Representatives for other parties should treat litigants in person with consideration but again this doesn't always happen. They should where possible be given photocopies of any authorities which are to be cited before the case starts in addition to the skeleton argument. They should be asked to give their names to the usher if they have not already done so. Representatives for other parties should explain the court's order after the hearing if the litigant in person does not appear to understand it - although this doesn't usually happen!

If a litigant in person wishes to give oral evidence he or she will generally be required to do so from the witness box in the same manner as any other witness of fact.

A litigant in person must give an address for service in England or Wales. If he or she is a claimant, the address will be in the claim form or other document by which the proceedings are brought. If he or she is a defendant, it will be in the acknowledgment of service form which he or she must send to the court on being served with the proceedings. It is essential that any change of address should be notified in writing to Chancery Chambers and to all other parties to the case. Notice of hearing dates will be given by post to litigants at the address shown in the court file. A litigant in person will generally be given a fixed date for trial on application. A litigant in person who wishes to apply for a fixed date should ask the Listing Office for a copy of its Guidance Notes for Litigants in Person.
Litigants in person may use the Supreme Court Library in the Queen's Building at the discretion of the Librarian.

Assistance to litigants in person (NB Procedures vary in Australia.)

A litigant who is acting in person may be assisted at a hearing by another person, often referred to as a McKenzie friend (see McKenzie v. McKenzie [1971] ). The litigant must be present at the hearing. If the hearing is in private, it is a matter of discretion for the court whether such an assistant is allowed to attend the hearing. That may depend, among other things, on the nature of the proceedings. (see note below on McKenzie friend).

The assistant is allowed to help by taking notes, quietly prompting the litigant and offering advice and suggestions to the litigant. The court can, and sometimes does, permit the assistant to address the court on behalf of the litigant, by making an order to that effect under section 27(2)© of the Courts and Legal Services Act 1990 (by reference to sections 17 and 18 of that Act), but this is an exceptional course. Some factors which may be relevant to whether this should be permitted have been discussed in reported judgments, including Izzo v. Philip Ross [2002] BIPR 310 and Paragon Finance v. Noueiri (Practice Note) [2001] EWCA Civ 1402 [2001] 1 W.L.R. 2357.

Representation on behalf of companies (NB Procedures vary in Australia.)

Rule 39.6 allows a company or other corporation to be represented at trial by an employee if the employee has been authorised by the company or corporation to appear on its behalf and the court gives permission. Paragraph 5 of PD 39 describes what is needed to obtain permission from the court for this purpose and mentions some of the considerations relevant to the grant or refusal of permission.

Robed and unrobed hearings (NB Procedures vary in Australia.)

Advocates (and judges) wear robes at hearings by High Court Judges of trials (including preliminary issues) and statutory appeals or cases stated. Robes are not worn for other hearings, including appeals from Masters, Bankruptcy Registrars and county courts. The Daily Cause List states, in relation to each Judge's list, whether the matter is to be heard robed or unrobed. Robes are not worn at hearings before Masters. Robes are worn at the following hearings before Bankruptcy and Companies Court Registrars: public examinations of bankrupts and of directors or other officers of companies; applications for discharge from bankruptcy or for suspension of such discharge; all proceedings under the Company Directors Disqualification Act 1986; petitions to wind up companies; final hearings of petitions for the reduction of capital of companies.

Solicitors' rights of audience (NB Procedures vary in Australia.)

At hearings in chambers before 26 April 1999 solicitors had general rights of audience. The fact that a matter which would then have been heard in chambers is now heard in public under Part 39 does not affect rights of audience, so in such matters as would have been heard in chambers previously, the general right of audience for solicitors continues to apply. Such cases included appeals from Masters, applications for summary judgment, and those concerned with pleadings, security for costs and the like, pre-trial reviews, and applications concerned with the administration of a deceased person's estate, a trust or a charity. They did not include applications in what is now the Interim Applications List or the Companies Court, nor appeals from county courts or insolvency appeals. Solicitors do, however, have general rights of audience in personal insolvency matters; this is not affected by whether the hearing is in public or private.

If a solicitor who does not have the appropriate special right of audience wishes to be heard in a case which is not one which, before 26 April 1999, would have been heard in chambers nor a personal insolvency case, an application may be made for the grant of a special right of audience before the particular court and for the particular proceedings under the Courts and Legal Services Act 1990, section 27(2)©.

Tape recording at hearings (NB Procedures vary in Australia.)

In the Royal Courts of Justice it is normal to record all oral evidence and any judgment delivered during a hearing before a Judge. If any party wishes a recording to be made of any other part of the proceedings, this should be mentioned in advance or at the time of the hearing. At hearings before Masters, it is not normally practicable to record anything other than any oral evidence and the judgment, but these will be recorded. No party or member of the public may use recording equipment without the court's permission.

Preparing a chronology

A useful first step in preparing a chronology is to identify all the key events in the case. Placing them in chronological order will often cast light on significant issues, such as delays in dealing with grievances. A chronology should be simple, not long-winded. The aim is to provide an "at a glance" summary which will help to focus on the history and significance of your case. The chronology should not omit significant events which appear to be detrimental to your case: evasiveness will not impress the court. A skeleton argument may provide an opportunity to summarise why apparent weaknesses in your case are not, when properly viewed, fatal to it.

Preparing a skeleton argument

As a litigant in person you will acting as your own advocate. The skill in preparation which is valued is in preparation of quality and informative skeleton arguments and chronologies. Skeleton arguments, properly prepared and used, are the foremost weapon in the LIPs armoury and the vehicle for short and focused hearings. The impact on the judge of a quality skeleton argument cannot be over-estimated. It is the your first "speech" to the judge which you are allowed to deliver without any interruption by the judge(hopefully!). The judge may legitimately assume that it is your best effort, on which the judge is asked to make at least his provisional judgment, and you must realise that it may be difficult thereafter (if not impossible) to shift that view.

The skill in advocacy is no longer the ability to drone on uninterrupted for hours: that is the perquisite of the judiciary alone. It is the ability to assist the judge, most particularly in answering his questions and resolving his doubts. You must have the resources to deal with the judicial intervention - the confidence not to be overawed, the resilience to respond, the tenacity to challenge, the tact to mollify, the authority to inform and persuade. This requires having the facts at your fingertips and the legal principles in mind and relevant passages in authorities and textbooks at hand - a far greater knowledge of all these is now required than was the position when the judge remained recumbent throughout the proceedings. The premium today is upon flexibility - to deal with issues raised, not as you may have planned, but as they are raised by the judge. It is important to try gaining the judge's trust and confidence in your preparation and accordingly the solidity of your submissions and answers to questions asked.

You may have an expectation of your "day in court". Such expectation should be lost immediately and realise the critical role of the skeleton argument. It takes the place (at least in part) of the opening addressto the judge. Subsequent questioning by the judge is the opportunity to make more - and not less - of what is and can be said.

A skeleton argument is a concise document summarising the main issues about the law and evidence in the case. It is often useful, as it helps to concentrate the mind and save time at the hearing. A "skeleton" should, almost by definition, concentrate on the "bare bones" of the case: Key facts, and the contentions based upon them. In drafting a "skeleton", it is useful to remember that judges will appreciate a document that goes to the heart of the case and avoids rhetorical flourishes.

Arguments in support of Grounds

LIPs going to appeal should remember that the court will normally only allow a very limited time for any hearing to decide whether permission to appeal should be given.

Any separate skeleton argument has to be filed and served on the respondent with your completed notice or, if you are unable to complete your skeleton argument in time, no later than 14 days after filing your notice.

Skeleton arguments should contact a numbered list of points that you intend to argue at the hearing. Each point should be stated in no more than a few sentences. Refer at each point to any documents you are filing with your appellant's notice which supports that argument.

Try to consider what other information the appeal court might find useful. For example, the court may find it helpful to have a list of people who feature in the case, an explanation of technical terms used in the papers, or a list of events in date order (a chronology). If you are providing any of these, they should be on a separate piece of paper attached to your notice marked with the case or claim number and names of the parties.

Preparing bundle for court

It is important to make sure that the bundle to which you will be referring is in its correct order and paginated in good time. The pleadings and any relevant correspondence between the parties leading up to case will be placed at the start of the bundle followed by the rest of the documents, usually in chronological order. It is helpful for there to be an index to the contents at the front of the bundle in 3 columns: document, date and page number.

You will have to submit three bundles to the court and it is always advisable to take an additional bundle with you at your actual hearing. Courts are notorious for losing files. You are strongly advised that you have someone with you to transcribe the hearing as you will find that the court transcript often bears no resemblance to what transpirs in an actual hearing. Remember to follow the proceedings closely, with the aid of the documents  in case, for instance, there is a need to point out any issue that may have been overlooked or wrongly interpreted.

All documents in the bundle need to be legible. It is surprising how often inadequately photocopied bundles are produced and this can 'put off' the judge.

You are strongly advised to examine your files held by the court and don't be surprised to find documents that you have been unaware of - you have the right to ask for photocopies.

To read the remainder of this article go to http://www.elc.org.uk/pages/lawlips.htm.
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