Do-it-yourself law practice is less risky than DIY brain surgery, but you can improve it by doing some research before going to court.

Your goal is not to educate the judge about the law. What he wants to know from you is how the facts of your case fit the law.


Research your situation as thoroughly as you can before going to court, but be aware that there may be aspects of the law as it applies to your situation that you would not think about because you are not an attorney.

You may be at a disadvantage if your opponent has a lawyer, but you will have the opportunity to present the facts as you see them.

Legal Matters: Take care not to invade someone's privacy

You meet someone who remembers you from years ago. You chat briefly with him, but you have another commitment, so you excuse yourself. Later, you realize you would have liked to talk more with him about what he recalls from elementary school history. So, you decide to look for him. Go for it, as l

When the issue is a landlord-tenant dispute, tenants occasionally report, “My landlord told me I shouldn’t even try to go to court, because I’ll lose.”

Questions to ask yourself if you receive that advice: Is my landlord a lawyer? Is he unbiased or does he have skin in the game?

Callers frequently reject a suggestion that they obtain a lawyer on the grounds, “Lawyers just want to charge you.”

Well, yes. So do plumbers. But if your legal situation is the equivalent of an overflowing toilet, it might be smart to get professional help.

If you decide to represent yourself in District Court, simple guiding principle: respect.

Even if you dislike the specific judge, you stand when you address him and ask for permission to approach if you want to hand him a document. You are showing respect for the office, not necessarily the individual.

For your research, the People’s Law Library of Maryland website,, offers plain-language explanations of issues ranging from landlord-tenant to child custody.

The site also offers information on how to file or respond to a claim filed against you and how to prepare for your day in court. Is it worth the trouble of using the site to work on your case, even if you have already seen court programs on TV? You know the answer. Your situation may not be the same as the one on the tube, and the judge on TV may be applying the law of another state.

Your goal is to help the judge understand how the facts of your case apply to the law. You may have read on the people’s law website that if you agreed to move your mobile home into a park on a specific date, and the park owner does not have a lot available, she is responsible for consequential damages you suffer from being unable to move in as scheduled.

Tell the judge what your consequential damages were. You may have had to pay additional fees to park your mobile home elsewhere, or it may have been held at the dealership and you had to pay for temporary housing while you waited for a lot to become available. Bring your receipts as evidence, with a copy for the park owner and a copy for the judge.