Guidelines for barristers on dealing with self-represented litigants

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The preparation of these guidelines reflects the increasing phenomenon of litigants appearing without legally qualified representation.

The courts have recognised the considerable increase in numbers of self-represented litigants. In 2000, the Family Court issued a Research Report, Litigants in Person in the Family Court of Australia, which highlighted the difficulties caused by increasing self-representation before that court. More recently, the Australian Institute of Judicial Administration issued a report, Litigants in Person Management Plans: Issues for Courts and Tribunals, which also explored the issue.

The need for guidelines such as these was brought home to me when talking with barristers, particularly in the family law jurisdiction, who noted how stressful it was to deal with litigants in person. I hoped that a preparation of guidelines such as these would enable members of the Bar to identify clearly the parameters within which they should work when dealing with self-represented litigants.

The guidelines have been prepared under the auspices of the NSW Bar Association’s Family Law Committee, but principally though a great deal of hard work by Brian Knox. Knox consulted widely in undertaking the exercise. In addition, the penultimate version of the guidelines was distributed for comment to the High Court, the Supreme Court of NSW, the NSW Industrial Relations Commission, the NSW Land and Environment Court, the District Court of NSW, the Compensation Court of NSW, the Local Court of NSW, the Federal Court of Australia, the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Magistrates Service for comment. The Association is grateful to those courts for the input from them we
received in relation to the guidelines.

I commend a thorough reading of these guidelines to all members. I congratulate the Family Law Committee and, in particular, Brian Knox, on producing a work of outstanding assistance to the Bar.

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