Representing yourself in court is almost always a bad idea, as Eric Saub found while acting as his own attorney.1 Saub ignored a judge’s advice to accept free legal counsel, instead dismissing his attorney and handling his legal matters himself. At his murder trial. He was found guilty of the Isle of Wight County, Virginia murder and sentenced to 33 years. Ignoring judges is bad. Bucking your attorney is bad.
But I Saw A Show
Some men may not have toxic masculinity, but they just might verge on it when they convince themselves they know as much as a Virginia attorney simply because:
- They watched some episodes of Law & Order
- They researched legal concepts on the internet
- They overheard some friends talking about the law one night at this bar …
Many (not all) of the Commonwealth’s laws are laid out in the Code of Virginia. It is a real page turner, at 67 Titles, each of which has numerous chapters. Each chapter is broken down into various sections. These laws were written over the decades by members of the General Assembly, the vast majority of whom were attorneys. Attorneys follow a simple practice:
- Nota Bene: Never use one simple English word when 15 English and two Latin words will do
Our point is that the Code of Virginia is a complex, lengthy and detailed set of laws. These are not mere suggestions on how to behave. Backing them up is the Virginia Constitution, with its 12 Articles, and the 24 Titles of the Administrative Code.
Toss in Federal Law, Virginia Supreme Court rulings, rulings by the Court of Appeals, decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court, and, finally, the U.S. Constitution. Think your bar buddies have all that squirreled away in their noggins?
Real Laws Carry Real Consequences
Under Virginia law (the real kind, not as seen on TV), you get one chance to make a good first impression. Bucking your lawyer’s advice on small things, ignoring deadlines, refusing to cooperate with your lawyer; these actions all result in problems for your case, no matter the particulars.
When you ignore your attorney’s advice, you put yourself at risk to the unknown. You have said, out of ignorance of Virginia’s laws, you know more than the person you are paying to navigate you through the unfamiliar waters of the legal system.
Your decision carries real consequences. You may unwittingly put yourself in contempt of court, which you may think is no big deal until a Virginia judge fines you up to $250 and up to 10 days in jail.
Communication is Key, Really
Many parties in legal matters are disappointed in their legal counselor because of a lack of communication. You have an understandable fear of the unknown (Virginia law) and the attorney seeks to move your case along in a timely, efficient manner. Sometimes these two interests do not mesh. You find yourself irritated that you do not understand something, disagree with your attorney, or feel victimized by the process.
Talk to your attorney. Ask for clarification. Yes, you will pay for the time, but understanding what is happening is essential to your case and your mental well-being.
Sometimes you and your attorney do not agree on strategy for your divorce, child custody, child support or visitation case. That does not mean you should immediately jump to Virginia’s “self-help” system, handy as it might seem. Instead of bucking your attorney, try these ideas first:
- You love the internet anyway; use it to learn how to talk to your lawyer
- Get a second opinion, with a different law firm; it will cost only an hour or two of consulting time
- Consider switching attorneys, but only after you talk to your attorney about your concerns; if you decide to switch, enlist the new attorney before ending your relationship with the old one
Slow Down and Think
One of the most beautiful aspects of Virginia law is its built-in mechanisms meant to drain emotion from legal matters, leaving behind rational thought and realism. Several spheres of our lives offer evidence of the maxim, “Act in haste, repent in leisure:”
- Bar bets
- Legal matters
When you need an attorney because of an emotionally charged issue (divorce, separation, child support, sex crime charges, paternity suits), your thinking is likely to be clouded. Recognize your attorney’s value as the clear-headed, knowledgeable partner in the process.
Slow down and consider the voice of experience and real legal knowledge you have at your fingertips. So much rides on every choice you and your attorney make together, you will do yourself far more harm by bucking the advice than by taking it.
Call The Firm For Men for Your Family Law Matter
At The Firm For Men we pride ourselves on being easy to get along with, whether you are a client, a witness, or a client’s child. Admittedly, we are serious with opposing counsel and anyone attempting to infringe on our clients’ rights. When you call (757) 383-9184 or when you contact us online, you will have the opportunity to consult with a real Virginia family law attorney, one who can help you, answer your questions, and provide you with good advice.