An Ode to the Self Represented Business Litigant

Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
If you’re in a law suit,
Don’t represent you.

Ah, Valentine’s Day. A day to celebrate love and the emotion that comes with it.

While being in touch with your emotions is good for your personal relationships, being emotional is not a good quality when representing yourself or your business in front of a Judge.

In Ontario, businesses do not have the right to represent themselves, they must obtain Leave, which is a fancy way of saying, permission, from the Court. Permission is not automatic. Courts have the right to refuse and will do so, particularly in situations where the representative is being uncooperative with counsel.

Many years ago I successfully argued that the owner of a company could not represent the company in the lawsuit I brought on behalf of my client. The fact that the individual had called me “ignorant and ugly” in writing helped show the Court that they were not able to conduct themselves appropriately in the law suit.

Even if you are confident you’ll be able to avoid calling the opposing counsel names, representing your company in Court is still not a good idea. Ultimately, this is your business and your money that is on the line. You will not be able to evaluate the strength of the other party’s position as you will be convinced yours is correct. You will also not have the benefit of legal research and arguments. You want to avoid that.

Lawyers are usually not free and the cost to hire one to defend a business in a law suit can be overwhelming. However, there are law firms available who will work with businesses on payment terms. It is worth looking into, because ultimately, you don’t want to be the one representing your company in Court.

Inga B. Andriessen JD