19 June 2006

A Fool For A Client?

The rub goes that a man acts as his own lawyer has a fool for a client. (The best attribution I could find was to a man by the name of Hunt, with no first name and no date or source.) This is widely believed by judges and lawyers alike. In a number of high profile cases this has seemed abundantly clear. But, when you move from anecdote to an empirical study, the waters muddy.

[T]he evidence establishes that pro se felony defendants in state court do just as well as represented felony defendants, and the vast majority of pro se felony defendants - nearly 80% - displayed no signs of mental illness.


Another recent study is somewhat less positive but recognizes self-representation as a good option for some defendants who have done so.

Perhaps conventional wisdom hasn't spent enough time listening to Douglas Adams who reminds us that:

The problem with designing something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of a complete fool.

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