Bringing or Defending a Civil Case
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5. Will I need a lawyer to handle my case?

You have the right to act in person (i.e. to handle your case by yourself). Alternatively, you may instruct a lawyer to represent you and present your case to the court.

You should note that if your claim is brought in the Labour Tribunal or the Small Claims Tribunal, then no legal representation is permitted. Claims in the Labour Tribunal and the Small Claims Tribunal are generally more straightforward. However, in many other types of cases, the legal procedure involved can be considerably more complicated. For example, a personal injury claim involves matters like writing to the person you are claiming from to set out the details of your claim, exchanging evidence, trying to agree on the medical reports to be used, preparing witness statements for yourself and for those who saw your accident, etc. You will also need to make a realistic assessment of the amount of damages you are seeking. It may therefore be preferable to get some professional help and advice from a lawyer.

You should note that while court staff can assist you with enquiries on court procedures (e.g. what forms you need and how to fill them in), they will not provide any legal advice or offer any comment or assistance on the conduct of specific court cases and proceedings. Thus, if you want to know whether you have a good claim or whom you should sue, you have to consult your own lawyer.

You should also bear in mind that it is the duty of the parties to present their case to the court for its determination. The court itself does not investigate the case. In other words, the judge will be acting as an umpire and makes decisions after considering the evidence presented and hearing the arguments from all parties. You cannot expect the judge to give much assistance to a litigant presenting his case in person.

Where the parties are limited companies

For cases which are heard in the Court of First Instance of the High Court, a limited company must engage a solicitor to attend the court hearing on its behalf unless leave (permission) is obtained from the court for it to be represented by one of its directors. The company's application for such leave has to be made to the Court Registrar and supported by an affidavit or affirmation made by the director concerned, stating and verifying the reasons. The company may rely on the reason that it is unable to afford to pay for the services of a solicitor or for some other good reasons. Apart from the relevant exhibits in support (i.e. supporting documents such as copies of the company's audited accounts and current bank accounts showing the up-to-date financial position), a board resolution of the company authorizing the director to appear on its behalf in the proceedings must be exhibited (attached) to the director's affidavit or affirmation. Whether to grant the leave or not is purely at the discretion of the Court Registrar. The company cannot appeal against the decision.

If the matter is heard in the District Court , a limited company may begin or carry on proceedings by one of its directors if the director has filed an affidavit or affirmation stating that he has been duly authorized by the board of directors to represent the company and exhibiting a copy of the board resolution duly certified by another director or the secretary of the company. In other words, the relevant company is not required to seek permission from the court (unlike a case in the High Court) if it has duly prepared the affidavit/affirmation together with the company's board resolution.