Citizens appearing as parties in court without a lawyer frequently ask the presiding judge, “Do I really need a lawyer?” As the judge presiding over their case, it is unethical for me to give them legal advice, so it would be improper for me or any other judge to answer, “No, you really do not need a lawyer for this kind of proceeding”; or, “Yes, you must proceed with a lawyer.”
Lawyers provide a number of services such as advising their clients about the merits of claims, offering strategic advice, performing legal research, and preparing legal documents. However, while these services can be invaluable, they also come at a financial cost. Because of this, many people choose to represent themselves in court.
Bob Jenson, President of the Maplewood Area Historical Society, estimates this photo to have been taken in the late 1890’s. It shows William Dawson Sr. seated in the chair while his son, William Dawson Jr., stands behind him and his grandson, William Dawson III, sits in his lap. (Photo courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society)