Letter: Legal system can be a minefield

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The Independent Online
Sir: Anyone is entitled to conduct his own case, criminal or civil, before any court in the land. There are, however, obvious reasons why litigants tend to instruct lawyers to represent them (despite Angela Lambert's opinion of my profession voiced in 'Me v Him: legal, decent and free', 17 May).

First, they seek advice on the legal merits of their case - which arguments to promote and rely upon, which to bury. Then there is evidence to be obtained, sifted, honed. They may wish their case presented with maximum articulacy by someone who has not suffered sleepless nights beforehand (though sometimes we do, too). Not all litigants are professional communicators such as Ms Lambert, nor are many capable of steering objectively their best course through an emotional haze.

As to the drain on the public purse, I fear that where Ms Lambert writes fresh from her personal forensic triumph, the Lord Chancellor and his accountants may follow all too swiftly behind. People with ordinary incomes are no longer eligible for civil Legal Aid, and remuneration for lawyers serving those that are is being substantially curtailed. The Chancellor will now be gratified to hear that lawyers who prepare and present cases at public expense can be replaced at a stroke by some self-help training sessions.

Yours faithfully,

HUGH D. SULLIVAN

London, W1

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