In these rough and tumble economic times, an increasing number of Garden State residents are acting as their own lawyers in civil court cases.

Law professor Frank Askin, the Director of the Rutgers University Constitutional Litigation Clinic, says the trend is certainly not surprising.

“Legal services are expensive, unless you’re completely poor and you can find a legal services free lawyer somewhere.”

Nevertheless, he points out the pitfalls of representing yourself are numerous.

“You get into court – there’s all kind of rules, there’s discovery- you gotta know about discovery, you gotta know about motions. People get in over their head very quickly.”

Askin adds, “Some judges will be sympathetic and will try to help out a pro-se litigants, but not all of them will, so it’s partly the luck of the draw. If you get a sympathetic judge – the judge may help you out, but otherwise the judge may say – what are you doing here? You don’t know anything about the law- go get a lawyer…That may sometimes frustrate the judges. They think it is bogging down their court calendar, so they don’t have the patience to deal with these pro-se litigants – they want to get rid of them…It happens all the time- and then you get hit with sanctions.”

He says if it’s a serious matter, someone should get a lawyer.

“If it’s a fairly frivolous matter, it’s just probably not worth going to court over – and forget about it…I guess it was Abraham Lincoln, who supposedly said, he who represents himself has a fool for a client – and it’s probably, true but people don’t know where to turn.”