The general definition of a ‘litigant in person’ is someone who represents themselves in court proceedings instead of using a Lawyer (licensed legal practitioner). However, this definition is no longer accurate because it does not take into account changes to legislation concerning access to legal services. For example, a litigant in person can be represented in court by a barrister whilst still being a litigant in person. This is because the barrister isn’t ‘on record’. By way of explanation, when a solicitor acts for a person (their client), the solicitor completes and submits a ‘Notice of Acting’ form to the court so that the court knows the solicitor is acting, and hence ‘on record’. The solicitor would also write to the other aside so that the other side knew that the solicitor was acting. All correspondence to and from the court and the other party will be via the client’s solicitor. This process does not however apply where a litigant in person directly uses a barrister unless the barrister has a Litigation Certificate and most barristers don’t. In fact, approximately only 200 out of 12,000 barristers are approved to conduct litigation, i.e., have a litigation certificate. If you’re not sure what the difference is between Solicitors and Barristers and you would like to know, click here.
The correct definition of a ‘litigant in person’ is: A person who does not have a lawyer ‘on record‘.
Given the rise in litigants in person through the court system in recent years, some useful guidance was published by The Bar Council in 2013 to help litigants ‘navigate’ their way through the court process. This is no substitute for professional legal advice but for those people who cannot afford legal representation, not even from a barrister who is by far the most cost-effective legal solution available, it is at least of some help. Here’s the guidance: The Bar Council’s A Guide to Representing yourself in Court – April 2013.
Interestingly, ‘guidelines for lawyers’ was published in June 2015 to help lawyers deal with the ever increasing issue of ‘litigants in person’. These guidelines were issued jointly by The Bar Council, the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives and The Law Society. Here’s the guidance: Litigants in person – guidelines for lawyers – June 2015. Whilst directed to lawyers, the information in these guidelines will also be of assistance to litigants in person.