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Legal Research Resources for the Public: Representing Yourself

Representing Yourself In Court

Adults have a constitutional right to represent themselves in legal matters. "Pro se litigants" or "self-represented litigants" (SRLs) advocate on their own behalf before a court, instead of using the services of an attorney.

Judges and courts are not obligated to provide SRLs with extra help. Just like attorney-represented litigants, SRLs are expected to adhere to all court rules, to meet filing deadlines, and to understand relevant legal issues.

In this section you will find material designed to prepare non-attorneys represent themselves in legal matters. 

Pro Se Pro Tips: General Research
  • Make a plan.
    • Aimlessly using a search engine is not the most efficient or useful way to conduct legal research.
    • Check out the Researching the Law page for help with your legal research strategy.
  • Start with secondary sources.
    • It may be tempting to dive into cases and statutes, but they are not the most effective place to start.
    • Secondary sources put primary sources in context, explain how they are actually interpreted, and lead to additional useful resources.
  • ​​Check the footnotes of cases and articles--they are chock full of references to relevant legal resources.
    • If you see a case/statute/regulation mentioned in multiple articles on the same subject, it is probably important. Look it up!
  • Give priority to cases from your own jurisdiction.
    • If you are dealing with a Michigan state court, look for cases decided by the Michigan Supreme Court or Courts of Appeals.
    • While you can use opinions from other jurisdictions to illustrate a point, they will not carry the same weight as ones from the court at issue.