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Representing Yourself

Each year, thousands of British Columbians address their legal disputes without hiring a lawyer. Are you representing yourself? Start by reading this section. You will find practical resources to help you apply the law, build your case and prepare for a hearing or trial.

Reviewed by:
Nov 3, 2021

No. You can represent yourself in court. In fact, in most BC civil law cases less than $35,000, the majority of people represent themselves. About 50% of all family law cases that go to trial involve at least one side who represents themselves, without a lawyer.

Even if you are representing yourself, it is a good idea to talk to a lawyer. A lawyer can provide helpful information at every stage of the legal process. You can call the Lawyer Referral Service for a free 30-minute consultation with a lawyer. You might also look into whether you are eligible for a lawyer through Legal Aid BC, Access Pro Bono and BC Advocates.

At the start of your legal dispute and any time during the legal process, you can use Ask JES, which is a free service available on this website. You can call, chat live or text your question using the information in the green column on the right. Each year, Ask JES provides free answers to thousands of legal questions. Ask JES provides legal help information and referrals which can help you take the next step to move forward with your legal issue. For more options, see the Legal Help section of this website.

You can visit these court websites to find information and resources to prepare for court.

Reviewed by:
Nov 3, 2021

Start with Ask JES, which is a free service available on this website. You can call, chat live or text your question using the information in the green column on the right. Each year, Ask JES provides free answers to thousands of legal questions. Ask JES provides legal help information and referrals which can help you take the next step to move forward with your legal issue.

In BC, many government departments and non-profit organizations provide free legal help information online. To start, it is important to understand what kind of legal issue you have.

Family Law: Issues related to separation, divorce, protection orders and adoption. See Family Law or

Civil Law: Issues related to agreements between people and organizations. This includes issues related to employment, housing, lawsuits, and other legal disputes. For disputes less than $5000, see the Civil Resolution Tribunal. For claims between $5001 and $35,000 see For claims over $35,000 see For disputes related to employment, housing and other government regulated issues, see

Criminal Law: Issues related to crime, as described in the Canadian Criminal Code. See Crime.

If you are searching for legal help online, be specific about your legal issue and be sure to include “BC” in your keyword search. A great online resource for all legal issues is Clicklaw BC.

If you have a legal problem, it is a good idea to talk to a lawyer to get legal advice. Even if you are going to handle your own case, a lawyer can help you at every step in the legal process. See the Legal Help section to view the answer for How can I get free legal advice in BC? to learn about services provided by Legal Aid BC, Access Pro Bono and BC Advocates.

Reviewed by:
Nov 4, 2021

You need to understand that representing yourself in court or at a hearing can be time consuming, emotional, and stressful. So, it is important to take care of yourself throughout the process, as well as to be patient and determined.

Court and tribunals are formal legal processes with specific rules. You are expected to know the rules and to be prepared for each hearing. You need to be an expert in your case. You need to spend time to get organized, know the law, build your case and be prepared.

Information from these websites will help you learn the legal process and prepare your case.

You should try to meet with a lawyer at the very start to get guidance on how to proceed with your case. See “How can I get free legal advice in BC?

Before you start complete court forms to start a case, you need to figure out what your case is about. To do this, you’ll need to learn learn about the law, build your case and present at hearings and trial. You need to understand parts of the law and how the law applies to the facts of your case. You need to conduct legal research, be organized with your evidence and documents, and help the judge understand your reasons for going to trial. The information provided in the questions below will help.

Reviewed by:
Nov 4, 2021

To build a legal case, you need to clearly set out the facts of your case. You also need to understand the law that applies to your specific situation. To prove a point, you have to apply the facts to the law. It is important to have evidence for proof.

It takes time and thought to be able to present a solid legal argument. You should expect to spend a significant amount of time gathering your evidence, researching relevant laws and cases, as well as preparing your legal arguments. There are also certain rules around how to present your evidence to the court and how many copies of documents you need to bring. Being prepared is vital. Not only will it help you reduce the stress of representing yourself, but it will make a difference in the outcome of your case.

The SmallClaimsBC website has some great tools for representing yourself in court that are general principles for anyone going to court, whether it is a civil or family law case.

If you are involved in a family law matter, the How To Separate website provides information and tools for Building Your Case and other basic legal skills that you might find useful for preparing for court.

Reviewed by:
Nov 5, 2021

The most important thing about being in court is to go prepared. A good way to prepare is to create a trial binder that you take to court with all your important documents and notes.

Here is what your trial binder might include:

  1. Case Building Worksheet
  2. Court Documents - This includes all the filed notices, replies, applications, or orders
  3. Opening Statements – Your prepared draft
  4. Your Evidence – If giving evidence, list the points and documents you will discuss
  5. Witnesses – list of witnesses, questions you will ask and documents you will present
  6. Closing Statements – Your prepared draft
  7. Blank pages for your notes

Make three copies as well as the original of each document that you will be presenting.

For an Opening Statement, you will want to inform the Judge of what happened and what you are seeking. You can use this Opening Statement Worksheet to prepare.

Next, you will call and question your witnesses. Then, the other party will call witnesses and you will have an opportunity to cross-examine them. You can read more about questioning witnesses and what types of questions to ask.

Lastly, you will make a closing argument. The closing argument is not another chance to give evidence. You may only refer to points on which evidence has already been given. Fill in the Closing Statement Worksheet to help you prepare but be sure to fill it in with more detail during your trial.

Reviewed by:
Nov 4, 2021

There are two types of evidence – documents and oral evidence. Documents include contracts, receipts, emails, pictures, videos, etc. Oral evidence includes what a person says while under oath.

To present a document in court and enter it as evidence you usually need someone, a witness or a party (this could be you), to introduce it to the court. They will need to swear that it is the authentic document and may be needed to explain the content of the document.

Steps for presenting a document in court:

  1. Take each original document and hand it to the court clerk as you tell the judge about it. The clerk will give the document to the judge.
  2. Give the other party one of the copies of the document.
  3. You may need to stand in the witness box and swear or affirm the truth of your statements. Alternatively, you may present the document to the court if it is an exhibit to your sworn affidavit.
  4. After identifying the document, it will be marked as an exhibit.

If you are presenting a document to a witness:

  1. Make sure the other side has a copy of the document.
  2. Give the document to the clerk.
  3. Ask the clerk to mark it for identification and give it to the judge at the beginning of the testimony of the witness who will identify it.
  4. Once it has been identified, ask the clerk to mark it as an exhibit.

You and the other party may bring witnesses to court to help prove your case. Witnesses will need to answer questions asked by both parties and the judge. When you call a witness to court you will get to ask questions first. A witness cannot lie when they answer. If they do, there may be serious penalties, such as a fine or jail time.

A witness should be able to help establish the facts you’re trying to prove. If you have documents you want to present to the court, you may need to have a witness explain them or verify their authenticity. Witnesses can also give evidence on things they heard or saw. For example, if your neighbour told you about seeing a fire in your backyard, you could have your neighbour provide this information in court.

It is important that the witnesses you choose are credible, articulate, and sincere. You can’t tell your witnesses what to say. But it may be helpful to review the questions with them that you will ask and the information they will provide. It is also helpful to consider what questions the other party or the judge may ask.

Reviewed by:
Nov 4, 2021

Canadian Legal Information Institute (CanLII) is a free resource where you can search online for case decisions from every level of Canadian courts. It is a great resource for self-representing litigants. It has powerful search capabilities and it is worth spending some time to learn how to get the most from this database of case law.

You can read more about how to research using CanLII on How to Separate. It provides information to improve your searches and how to read case names.

Reviewed by:
Nov 4, 2021

At a trial, both sides are given an opportunity to present their evidence and make a legal argument. There is a formal structure or order for how a trial occurs.

The steps at a trial are:

  1. Opening statements
  2. The Claimant calls witness and presents evidence
  3. Respondent/Defendant is given a chance to question these witnesses
  4. The Respondent/Defendant calls witness and presents evidence
  5. Claimant is given a chance to question these witnesses
  6. The Claimant and Respondent/Defendant make closing statements
  7. The judge makes a decision

You can read about what happens at a trial on How to Separate or in more detail on SmallClaimsBC.

Reviewed by:
Nov 4, 2021

Tribunals are set up to resolve disputes about specific topics. For this reason, tribunals follow their own set of rules and procedures. The rules and procedures are often different than those of the courts, which follow the same standard set of rules that govern all court proceedings. To get started, search the BC Admin Law Directory and select the suitable tribunal or agency to find out what process you need to follow.

The first step is generally to resolve the dispute prior to going before a tribunal. Many things will happen before an adjudicator makes a decision or hears your case. Most tribunals take steps to try to resolve your dispute or determine your rights as quickly as possible.

For more details about how to prepare for a tribunal hearing, see the AdminLawBC website.

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