It is becoming more and more common to see cases where one side is represented, and one is not.
So, if you are representing yourself (as a “litigant in person”), how do you deal with a barrister?
The first thing to remember is that barristers, although instructed on behalf of your opponent, are professionals, and will be happy to speak with you. If there is an offer you would like to put, the barrister will take instructions on it.
If there is a question you would like to ask, often the barrister will be willing to answer it – within reason! You cannot get advice from the opposing barrister, but you can, for example, ask about missing papers, hand a statement to the barrister, or ask for directions within the court building to find, say, the usher or court counter.
If your opponent has instructed a barrister, then you should speak with the barrister, and not your opponent directly.
In court you may find that the judge wants to hear from the barrister first, regardless of who is the Applicant/ Claimant. This is because, from a judge’s point of view, the barrister is experienced in courtroom procedure and knows what information the court will need to get started.
You will get an opportunity to have your say. Speak only to the judge in court – it is considered bad manners to speak directly to anyone in court other than the judge. Even if the question is directly about your opponent/ the barrister, you should still put it to the judge.
For example, you might want to ask me “when did you send the claim form to me?”. A more polite way to phrase the question would be to ask the judge “perhaps my opponent could inform the court when the claim form was sent to me”.
Once the hearing has concluded, do be willing to speak with the barrister. Sometimes there are fine details that need to be clarified but are not in the order. As an example, you may be ordered to pay a sum of money within seven days to your opponent. If you do not have your opponent’s bank details, you may miss the deadline by having to write to your opponent for this information. It is perfectly acceptable to ask the barrister for this, and he or she will be happy to assist you.
Finally, do remember that the barrister is a representative of your opponent, and not your actual opponent. The court takes a very dim view of a party who refuses to have a conversation outside of court, and may well criticise you for not doing so.
Be polite to your opposing barrister, and if you are not sure whether you should ask him or her a question, try. If the barrister cannot answer it, you will be told. If the question can be answered, you may find that you are able to narrow the issues in the case, and focus on the points that really matter.