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->''"They say a man who represents himself has a fool for a client. Well, with God as my witness, ''[[ComicallyMissingThePoint I am that fool!]]''"''[[note]][[GilliganCut Cut to Gomez losing his case.]][[/note]]
-->-- '''Gomez Addams''', ''Film/TheAddamsFamily''

A person who represents themselves in court without the assistance of an attorney, whether as the defendant or the plaintiff, and whether or not the issue before the court is criminal or civil, is said to be operating ''pro se'' (a Latin phrase meaning "for oneself"). In the United States, at least, the right of a member of the public to represent themselves predates the existence of the U.S. Constitution, and it is generally considered a part of the protected right to seek a redress of grievances.

In general, most legal professionals consider a person going to court without the aid of an attorney to be a really bad idea, even when the litigant ''is an attorney themselves''. Not all attorneys are versed in all forms of law; how many alleged murderers does the average tax lawyer defend in their lifetime, after all? Furthermore, even if said attorney ''is'' an expert in that precise field of law, being that close to the matter at hand is a great way to lose sight of the big picture. There is a reason why the adage in full often reads as some variation of "The man who represents himself has a fool for a client ''and an ass for an attorney.''"

But of course, something being a really bad idea has never stopped anyone before, even when the charge is only a [[TheTroubleWithTickets parking violation]].

Almost always [[LampshadeHanging lampshaded]] by someone asking the character if he is aware of the adage. Naturally this appears quite often in [[LawProcedural Courtroom Drama]]. In comedies, the ''pro se'' character often engages in CourtroomAntics that would get him thrown into jail in RealLife, but because it is PlayedForLaughs, the character will often get away with it[[note]]A bit of Truth In Television here, as judges are usually more tolerant of irregularities from those who are appearing ''pro se'' and don't know the rules than they would be of an attorney, who should presumably know better; though it's still possible to take it way too far, and repeatedly engaging in behavior you've been warned against WILL get you jailed for contempt[[/note]]. Often involves HoldingBothSidesOfTheConversation when the character cross-examines himself. And it is almost guaranteed that, in response to the judge telling the character that he is "out of order", the character will yell back at the judge, "[[Film/AndJusticeForAll No]], ''[[Film/AndJusticeForAll you're]]'' [[Film/AndJusticeForAll out of order!]]" because apparently a lot of comedy writers are also Creator/AlPacino fans.

It may happen when TheMainCharactersDoEverything, as this trope saves the need to create a new lawyer character.

See also InformedSelfDiagnosis, the equivalent trope for medical doctors. Compare TheCobblersChildrenHaveNoShoes.


[[folder: Comic Books ]]
* In the 2011 ''Comicbook/{{Daredevil}}'' series, this actually becomes attorney Matt Murdock's new business plan. Since Matt Murdock is widely suspected of secretly being Daredevil, it becomes difficult for him to represent clients effectively. So he and his partner Foggy Nelson start a new business -- coaching clients who can't afford or don't want to hire counsel to effectively represent themselves in court.
* In the 2015 Free Comic Book Day strip for ''ComicBook/AtomicRobo'', Dr. Dinosaur represents himself in court. Since it's [[CloudCuckoolander Dr. Dinosaur]], he doesn't exactly impress anyone: he carries his papers in a briefcase labelled "My Law Box" and calls a SurpriseWitness who happens to be a laser-shooting dinosaur. The judge is right in the middle of holding him in contempt when all hell breaks loose.
-->'''Dr. Dinosaur:''' (waving around his papers at random) You are dazzled by my array of very legal documents.
* One of Charles Addams' comic strips featured a man climbing over a witness stand and a caption reading something along the lines of:
-->"Mr. Smith, I have no problem with you representing yourself, but would you ''please, for the love of God, stop jumping in and out of that chair!''"

[[folder: Film ]]
* ''Film/TheAddamsFamily'': "They say a man who represents himself has a fool for a client. Well, with God as my witness, ''I am that fool!''"
* Fielding Mellish does this in ''Film/{{Bananas}}''. His self-cross-examination is actually one of the less absurd scenes in this movie - except for the fact he's his own ''hostile'' witness.
* ''Film/{{Fracture|2007}}'': Ted Crawford decides to represent himself in an attempted murder trial, and he does it ''[[GambitRoulette very]]'' [[GambitRoulette effectively]]. He manages to get himself acquitted despite a signed confession, a murder weapon, and motive. The way he was able to do this was that the investigating detective was sleeping with the victim (the killer's wife) making the confession suspect when the detective's testimony of it was undermined, and the murder weapon had never been fired (he had switched it with the detective's weapon as they were identical models). As for motive, without evidence it's useless. This was helped by the fact that the prosecutor had his foot out the door as he was about to get a job at a prestigious law firm and wasn't taking the case very seriously due to the mountain of evidence. Crawford also purposely used an ObfuscatingStupidity angle to appear like an easy win to the haughty and uninterested public prosecutor. [[spoiler:When the prosecutor then finds a way to try Crawford for murder, Crawford hires a defense team of 4+ lawyers. He no longer has the tricks available that got him acquitted the first time.]] Both times rely on HollywoodLaw.
* Inverted in ''Film/LawAbidingCitizen'' in that he does insist on defending himself but he's also highly intelligent and he did do research on it beforehand. They find books on law at his home when they arrest him. He's not a lawyer, but he's smart enough to handle his defense purely on what he taught himself. Also, he never goes to trial, it's just at his bail hearing, and he mocks the judge for accepting his legal arguments to provoke her into sending him to jail. All part of his plan.
* Robert Kearns defends himself in ''Film/FlashOfGenius'' in his 1980 lawsuit against Ford, which ends with $10.1 million in damages, after his attorney Gregory Lawson (Alan Alda) withdraws from the suit. He then sues Chrysler in 1992, receiving $18.7 million. In RealLife, he was represented by Gregory Lawson in the suit against Ford, but did represent himself against Chrysler. It's possible this was changed to have a scene where he examines himself in the witness stand in homage of the ''WesternAnimation/KingOfTheHill'' episode below.
* ''Film/OhGod'': Jerry Landers represents himself when he's sued for slander by the Reverend Willie Williams, whom Landers has called (at God's direction) a "phony," despite the Judge advising him that a lawyer would be "most helpful" to him. Then he calls God as a witness, and God appears and takes the stand...
--> '''God:''' If it pleases the court -- and even if it doesn't please the court -- I'm God.
* ''Film/FindMeGuilty'': This movie loosely portrays the real life trial of the Lucchese Crime Family in the 1980s, where gangster Jackie [=DiNorscio=] decided to defend himself in court after getting fed up with his previous lawyer, starring Creator/VinDiesel as [=DiNorscio=].
* In ''Film/BigEyes'', after the Gannett lawyers leave him, Walter megalomaniacally decides to represent himself, guided only by his vague memories of ''Series/PerryMason'' episodes. This works out as well for him as you'd expect.
* Mr. Toad acts as his own defense in his trial for car theft on the ''Literature/TheWindInTheWillows'' segment of ''Disney/TheAdventuresOfIchabodAndMrToad''. He is so confident that his star witness Mr. Winkie will exhonerate him that he's already making his way out of the courtroom in mid-testimony [[spoiler:when the duplicitous Winkie claims that Toad tried to sell him the stolen motorcar, and the doors slam shut right on Toad's face.]]
* At one point in ''Film/ThePeopleVsLarryFlynt'', Flynt fires his lawyer and represents himself. He fares better with an attorney. See also Real Life below.

[[folder: Literature ]]
* Howard Roark from ''Literature/TheFountainhead''. Unsurprisingly, given the book's message of individualism and objectivism, it ''works''.
* In the Creator/GKChesterton story "The Ecstatic Thief", the eponymous thief defends himself successfully.
* In the first Creator/TimDorsey novel, a high school student represents himself and his friends on drunk driving and possession of alcohol charges, despite having never once even looked at a law book before getting arrested. He succeeds in getting them all off on a technicality, and grows up to be a DA.
* In the third book in the ''Series/BabylonFive'' [=PsiCorps=] trilogy, Bester defends himself in a war crimes trial. His closing statement actually gets an ovation. While he doesn't get himself completely off the hook, his sentence is reduced from death to life in prison while on sleeper (telepathic suppression) drugs.
* The backstory of Mr Slant the zombie lawyer in ''Literature/{{Discworld}}'' is that he defended himself, lost, and was executed. He [[UnfinishedBusiness cannot rest]] until his descendants agree to pay the bill.
* ''Don't Go to Jail!: [[Creator/BobOdenkirk Saul]] [[AmoralAttorney Goodman]]'s Guide to Keeping the Cuffs Off'' is a non-fiction book of criminal defense advice written in the voice of [[Series/BetterCallSaul Albuquerque's most infamous]] [[Series/BreakingBad CRIMINAL lawyer]]. Part I is "How to Be Your Own Attorney", and of course the very first heading is "Why You Shouldn't Be Your Own Attorney". Ultimately, the book advises against ''pro se'', advises how to pull off ''pro se'' anyway, and describes historical ''pro se'' hits and misses, as much as it does explain how to work with a defense attorney. The "fool for a client" quote is mentioned right up front, and it's even implied that the phrase is really meant to warn ''lawyers'' against the temptation to represent themselves.

[[folder: Live Action TV ]]
* The eponymous character from ''Series/TheDrewCareyShow'' represents himself in court against a charge of sexual harassment. He sent around a cartoon of a caterpillar having sex with a French fry, and one of the female employees took offense to it. In the end, while the judge admits that the person who did the most damage to Drew's case was Drew himself (to which Drew replies by suggesting one of his friends had an even worse performance), he dismisses the case.
* Harmon Rabb had to defend himself a couple of times in ''Series/{{JAG}}''.
* In ''Series/{{Matlock}}'', the eponymous SimpleCountryLawyer did this a couple of times.
* ''Series/{{CSI}}'':
** In one episode, a defendant decides to do this in order to delay his trial, giving him a chance to escape from custody.
** Another episode has the defendant dismiss his lawyer and represent himself [[LargeHam with plenty of pork]]; he takes particular pleasure in cross-examining a man he stabbed, pressing to know what he was ''feeling'' as he lay bleeding out.
* Michael Bluth represents his family in a mock trial on ''Series/ArrestedDevelopment''. His family mocks him, assuming he only thinks he's a lawyer because he portrayed one in a grade-school play, ''The Trial of Captain Hook'', once upon a time.
* ''Series/LawAndOrderSpecialVictimsUnit'':
** One episode involves a man who has this trope quoted at him by the judge. This client wasn't so foolish -- he walks away with an acquittal, although he is later rearrested.
** More than once, SVU has also had the particularly nasty variant where the person representing him or herself is a rapist or pedophile, and gets to cross-examine their own victim, over the strenuous (but usually futile) objections of the ADA.
* It's actually subverted in ''Series/LawAndOrder'' Prime. Defendants will occasionally represent themselves, but rarely to their own detriment. When they are convicted, it is for the same reason the represented defendants are. Some notable cases are [[MagnificentBastard Phillip Swann]], [[OffOnATechnicality Marty Winston]], [[AffablyEvil Victor Vargas Moreno]], [[FauxAffablyEvil Richard Morriston]], [[MurderByMistake Catherine Waxman]], [[ChurchMilitant Drew Seeley]], [[StalkerWithACrush Susan Boyd]], [[RightWingMilitiaFanatic Phil Christie]], [[AmoralAttorney Harold Jensen]], [[BigBadFriend Mark Paul Kopell]], [[WesternTerrorists Mousah Salim]], [[FaceDeathWithDignity Simon Vilanis]], [[LeaveNoWitnesses Leland Barnes]], [[BungledSuicide Davey Buckley]], [[RevengeBeforeReason Gordon Samuels]], and [[InsanityDefense James Smith]].
* ''Series/LawAndOrderUK'':
** James Steel successfully defends himself against charges of "perverting the course of justice". Of course, James is a brilliant lawyer who spent many years in defense, so it wasn't exactly a terrible decision to begin with anyway.
** The plot of "Defence" also mirrors that of "Pro Se" in the original Law and Order, although the mentally ill defendant here is much DarkerAndEdgier, showing no remorse for his murders, even though they occurred amidst a schizophrenic delusion.
* This happens in ''Series/RedDwarf'', allowing the setup of the following gag:
-->'''Rimmer:''' If only I'd hired a smarter lawyer, instead of the brain-dead, pompous, stupid-haired git I ended up with.
-->'''Lister:''' You defended ''yourself!''
** It also happens in "Justice", again with Rimmer, who kept attempting to object to Kryten's statements despite Kryten being his defense attorney. Though it's a bit more understandable this time around, as Kryten's defense consisted of "Rimmer is too stupid and incompetent to have been responsible for the crime he's been accused of."
* In a ClipShow episode of ''Series/DarkJustice'', the team is accused of being "The Night Watchmen," the accomplices of the eponymous vigilante. They are tried in front of Judge Marshall (who is secretly Dark Justice himself). They plead not guilty, represent themselves, and ultimately do not even mount a defense, arguing instead that the prosecution didn't make its case that they ''are'' the Night Watchmen (which is perfectly acceptable, though inadvisable, in RealLife trials).
* In an episode of ''Series/TheBigBangTheory'', Sheldon defends himself in traffic court for an unpaid ticket. He fails and gets himself thrown in jail for contempt of court, though this is due to him being an insufferable ass and insulting the judge rather than his lack of qualifications.
* In one episode of ''Series/SledgeHammer'', Sledge gets accused of murder and decides to defend himself. Right before the big surprise reveal at the end, the judge asks the Prosecution if they have anything to say and the prosecutor responds that Sledge has already made all their points for them.
* Subverted in the season 5 finale of ''Series/{{Bones}}'': The Gravedigger, a former prominent prosecutor, represents herself on multiple murder charges; she consistently out-maneuvered the prosecutor (Caroline) for most of the trial and didn't make any obvious legal mistakes (with the possible exception of acting '''way''' too smug for someone who is on trial for kidnapping and first-degree murder--in a jury trial no less) [[spoiler: and is convicted]].
* ''Series/TheMentalist'':
** In the season 4 premiere, Jane chooses to represent himself, [[spoiler:in a trial for a murder that he freely admits to. [[HollywoodLaw He's acquitted.]]]]
** Before that, the phrase itself is briefly mentioned-
-->'''Cho''': "If you represent yourself, you're an idiot."
-->'''Jane''': "Actually, it was 'a man who is his own lawyer has [[TitleDrop a fool for a client]].'"
* William Garrow in ''Series/GarrowsLaw'' does this during his potentially ruinous criminal conversation trial at the King's Bench. [[spoiler:He manages it successfully to the point where, although the jury find in favour of Sir Arthur Hill, Hill is only awarded damages of one shilling.]]
* One ''Series/KenanAndKel'' episode featured Kenan suing a tuna cannery for 10 million dollars after finding a screw in his tuna. Wanting to keep all the money to himself rather than paying a percentage of it to any lawyer, he represented himself. Assuming a lawyer could have persuaded Kenan to settle for one million dollars as the cannery proposed, Kenan was really a fool in that case since [[spoiler:it turns out the tuna company was innocent, and the real culprit -if by accident- was actually ''Kel''.]]
--> [[spoiler: '''Kel''': (crying on the stand) [[LargeHam I DID IT! IT WAS ME! I...DROPPED THE SCREW...IN THE TUNA!]]]]
* In ''Series/TrailerParkBoys'', [[GeniusDitz Ricky]] does this twice; the first time is offscreen and... doesn't exactly go in his favor, whereas the second time is onscreen and somehow works perfectly for him.
* ''Series/MarriedWithChildren'': Al was sued when his children caused a car crash and he decided he didn't need a lawyer. The judge ruled against him and he was forced to pay for damages. To avoid being arrested for not paying, Al decided to go into hiding but was run over by someone who, according to the WhereAreTheyNowEpilogue, paid Al's debt as a way to settle.
** In another episode, a burglar broke into Al's house and Al punched him. The burglar sued Al for $50,000 and Al considered the case too much of a FrivolousLawsuit to hire a lawyer. When Al lost, he decided to make it $100,000 by punching the thief again, which allowed Al to sue the thief, claiming to have broken his hand at the thief's face. Completely HollywoodLaw, of course.
* ''Series/{{Shark}}'': Sebastian Stark prosecuted a serial killer who decided to defend himself and got OffOnATechnicality because the key witness died before he had a chance to cross-examine her and another technicality prohibited Stark from proving the defendant induced her into suicide. The killer became his own client again when he was accused of killing another woman. He was convicted but Stark told him [[spoiler:the victim had actually killed herself and he made it look like a homicide just to get him convicted for it. The killer later represents himself ''again'' at his appeal, but knows he can't win- it was only cover to escape.]]
* Subverted in ''Series/TheNewStatesman'' - B'Stard sacks his counsel, his fellow MP and usual lackey Piers Fletcher-Dervish, and does a ''better'' job representing himself because Piers is an idiot who only qualified as a barrister through family connections. [[spoiler:And the whole case was a sham anyway.]]
* It is revealed on ''Series/StarTrekVoyager'' that the Klingons have a variation on this; at one point, B'Lanna Torres relates to the Doctor the Klingon proverb "The doctor who operates on himself has a ''p'tahk'' for a patient."
* In ''Theatre/TheOddCouple'''s many court episodes, Felix always wants to represent himself in court and was nearly always incompetent at it, with one spectacular exception while questioning an assuming accuser, Mr. Hugo, in "The Dog Story." [[spoiler: His accused crime was "dognapping"; Felix showed how much of an abusive trainer said accuser was to the dog in question, that the court only fined Felix ''one dollar'' (on the grounds he had pure motives for keeping the dog from the trainer, hence "mitigating circumstances" for Felix's ruling of "guilty" from Oscar's admitted "guilty" plea that cost ''three hundred dollars'').]]
* In 1995 Series/SaturdayNightLive did an opening skit parodying the RealLife ''pro se'' defense of Colin Ferguson, who was then on trial for murder (referring to himself in third person throughout). The actual defense was, if anything, ''more'' ridiculous. Not surprisingly, given the overwhelming evidence against him, Ferguson was convicted.
* ''Series/EliStone'': One episode featured a lawyer who sued a law firm for not hiring him. The lawyer represented himself during the lawsuit, claiming he didn't need another lawyer. [[WildMassGuessing Perhaps no lawyer would support an African-American suing another African-American for racism]].
* In the ''Series/AllInTheFamily'' episode, "Archie's Civil Rights," Archie is charged with possession of a tear gas weapon and tries to defend himself at his arraignment hearing without a lawyer. Of course, not only does this irritate the judge for being out of order, but his typical bigoted and dimwitted blathering leads to him admitting he used it in an offensive manner, leading him to be almost charged with an assault felony. Only when the judge learns that the weapon was found by the police office after an illegal search does the charge get dismissed.
* ''Series/EqualJustice'': {{Averted}} in "Sugar Blues" (1x10), where a prisoner defends himself on a murder charge. While he ends up losing, he gives the prosecutor a very hard time. He turned himself into a jailhouse lawyer inside and had apparently won previous cases at trial, so it's {{justified}}. An old woman who comes just to watch trials claims he's her favorite, since he's that good.
* On ''Series/MyNameIsEarl'', Joy cannot afford an attorney when she faces charges for grand theft auto and [[AccidentalKidnapping kidnapping]], and life in prison (because of this being her "third strike.") The court appoints an attorney for her, but Joy doesn't want this attorney because a) [[FemaleMisogynist the attorney is a woman]] and b) she's deaf, and insults her. Joy decides to represent herself, but finds that she doesn't understand criminal law. So she decides to [[TheGrovel go back and beg the attorney to take on the case]].
* On ''Series/UnbreakableKimmySchmidt'', Reverend Wayne represents himself. His defense consists almost entirely of {{Courtroom Antic}}s, but since the prosecutors are even more incompetent it seems to be working out for him until Kimmy figures out how to get to him.
* ''Series/BetterCallSaul'': Jimmy decides to represent himself, despite being warned against it and knowing full well about the reputation doing so has. In this case at least he is a lawyer, and has done criminal cases, but even so. {{Downplayed}} as he teams up with Kim.
* ''Series/TheEscapeArtist'': Will defends himself when he's charged with Foyle's murder. [[spoiler: Since he's a skilled barrister already, plus has set things up to make it look like self-defense, it works.]]
* ''Series/BlueBloods'': When Jamie and Edie are accused of misconduct, they decide to fire their lawyers then just represent themselves (well, in practice Jamie represents both of them) after each puts the blame on the other. This succeeds, and it's partly justified as Jamie is a lawyer himself (he just didn't practice before, having chosen to go into police work instead of that).

[[folder: NewspaperComics]]
* ''ComicStrip/CalvinAndHobbes'': Referenced in one strip: after Calvin nearly hits Susie with a snowball, he defends himself by saying "I didn't do it! I never threw that! You can't prove I threw it! [[AccidentalPublicConfession Besides, I missed, didn't I?]]" Cut to Calvin face down in the snow after Susie clobbers him with the tagline "The defendant petitions the court for a new trial on the grounds that his lawyer is incompetent" (with Calvin, of course, having been his own "lawyer").

[[folder: Radio]]
* In one of his monologues on ''My Word'', Denis Norden describes defending himself on a charge of assaulting his ballroom dancing partner (he was just trying to get his contact lens back). He lost, he thinks chiefly because he didn't realise how short the lunch break was and gave himself hiccups by eating too fast when he saw they were starting again. [[{{Feghoot}} You can't advocate and eat at two]].

[[folder:Tabletop Games]]
* In ''TabletopGame/{{GURPS}}'', defending yourself in court is problematic for two reasons. One, depending on the campaign and your character plans, you [[UselessUsefulNonCombatAbilities probably won't be trained in the Law skill]], while the opposition almost certainly ''will'' be. Two, even if you conveniently are trained in Law, anyone trying to defend themselves with the Law Skill in an official legal capacity suffers an inherent -3 penalty to their Skill roll.

[[folder: Video Games ]]
* Obviously, ''Franchise/AceAttorney'' has had this. For the most part, however, the client is ''also'' a lawyer trained in criminal law (with experience in first-degree murder cases), at a criminal-law trial involving first-degree murder.
** To wit: [[spoiler: This happens in the final part of Case 2 of the [[VisualNovel/PhoenixWrightAceAttorney first game]], where the defendant's role is switched from Maya to Phoenix, due to a false accusation. He knows it is a bad idea, but moves forward anyway and wins the trial.]] In this case he doesn't have a choice. [[spoiler: Redd White]] used his connections to make sure no defense lawyer in town would want to help him, even going so far to suggest that the only state-appointed lawyer Phoenix would get would be so incompetent that Phoenix would look good by comparison.
** It also happens in ''VisualNovel/AceAttorneyInvestigations'', though there's no trial here: Edgeworth has to clear his own name in Case 2, where he faces the stewardess Rhoda Teneiro in order to convince her to release him and allow him to examine the rest of the airplane to find the true culprit. [[spoiler:And do the same thing when Franziska enters the investigation.]]
** In ''VisualNovel/PhoenixWrightAceAttorneyDualDestinies'', [[spoiler:Athena Cykes]] indirectly plays this role in Case 5, [[spoiler:Phoenix Wright is still the main defense attorney but she goes to the assistant side in both defending Simon Blackquill and confronting Fulbright. The Judge reminds her to go back to the defendant seat after it is all over.]]
** ''VideoGame/DaiGyakutenSaiban'' has Ryuunosuke as this in the first case. Bonus points for ''not even being a lawyer yet'' at the time.
* This occurs in Chapter 4 of ''VideoGame/TalesOfMonkeyIsland'', and features the question of whether the defendant is aware of the maxim, the "I am that fool!" response, the "You're out of order!" exchange, ''and'' the HoldingBothSidesOfTheConversation bit. The whole thing ends with a fistfight between the ''pro se'' lawyer and his own client.
** This is the solution to one of the "puzzles" (more a scripted event than a puzzle, really), namely how to break out of jail. The "lawyer" calls for the guard to let him out because "his client" is assaulting him, and the guard does so.
** It's also worth noting that the UsefulNotes/PlayStation3 download has a trophy if you try out all of the possible conversations between Guybrush and his client. Said trophy is actually called "Idiot for a Client".
* In ''VideoGame/KnightsOfTheOldRepublic'', after you cause a disturbance at the Sith embassy on Manaan, you're brought before the judges for threatening Manaan's neutrality. Contrary to the saying, your only hope is to dismiss the arbiter they appoint for you and argue your case yourself; if you let the appointed arbiter argue for you, you'll end up being executed. Later, after the events at the Hrakert Rift, you're brought before the judges yet again, again on your own. It helps that the way out of both cases is to exploit the Manaans' local politics and violations of their own neutrality rather than any actual knowledge of their legal system.
* In ''VideoGame/NeverwinterNights2'', the player character is put on trial with a competent party member acting as the defense attorney. Naturally, the player can also opt to self-represent, and with a strong score in diplomacy, bluff, or intimidate skill, can verbally tear the prosecution's testimony to shreds. Or engage in typical CourtroomAntics for the same end result, which is probably even more fun.
* In Case 4C (Fraternité) of ''VideoGame/AviaryAttorney'' [[spoiler: Leonie Beaumort]] represents themself. They don't actually expect to be proven innocent and in fact irritably 'confess' to all charges, including the trumped-up one, with the aim of getting the thing over with and, maybe, taking the fall for whoever actually did that one thing so ''someone'' will escape.

[[folder: Webcomics ]]
* At one point in ''Webcomic/SchlockMercenary'' during the [[RealityShow HTRN]] takedown storyline, [[http://www.schlockmercenary.com/d/20060715.html Massey resorts to this]] when speaking for the Toughs, for whom he is their legal counsel. While Fleetmind jurisprudence doesn't allow for lawyers to represent defendants, he was also a co-defendant in the hearing.
-->'''Petey:''' You know, they say that a lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client.
-->'''Massey:''' HAVE YOU SEEN WHO I WORK FOR?!?
* Mr. Kornada in ''Webcomic/{{Freefall}}''. He's a CorruptCorporateExecutive given the boot and in trial for an attempt at a massive insider trading scam which required the effective lobotomy of almost half a billion sentients. He's such an arrogant, unrepentant jackass and a colossal idiot to boot he has the gall to declare no other lawyer has his well being in mind after his idiotic stunt, so he decides to represent himself with the aid of a robot with extremely SkewedPriorities.
* Webcomic/DarthsAndDroids has [[http://www.darthsanddroids.net/episodes/1304.html a succinct explanation]] of why this should be averted - also works as an aversion of OnlyBadGuysCallTheirLawyers;
-->A trial is a contest of Law skills between the prosecution and the defence. Most people will hire a lawyer and make use of their Law skill. ''Do you really want to defend yourself and use Law at the default skill level?''

[[folder: Web Original]]
* ''Machinima/RedVsBlue'': Subverted/Lampshaded: After Simmons [[spoiler:paints himself blue and temporarily joins the Blue Team]], Sarge tries him for treason in a mock court. He appoints Grif as Simmons's counsel.
-->'''Simmons:''' Oh, no no. I'm representing myself!
-->'''Sarge:''' You know what they say, Simmons: 'A man who represents himself has a fool for a lawyer.' [[InsaneTrollLogic And that fool]] [[TakeThat is Grif]].
* Youtuber Bitscreed, while summarizing the frivolous lawsuits from infamous developer Digital Homicide, [[https://youtu.be/7I8PFCR6z50?t=6m47s noted]] that the cases were filed ''pro se''...
-->"...which is Latin, for 'no lawyer was stupid enough to take this case'."

[[folder: Western Animation ]]
* In one episode, WesternAnimation/JohnnyBravo did this and took it way, way too far.
* Gonzo does this in the ''WesternAnimation/MuppetBabies'' episode "Weirdo for the Prosecution".
-->'''Skeeter:''' Gonzo's lawyer is cracked.
-->'''Piggy: ''' And his client could use a little glue, too.
* In an episode of ''WesternAnimation/KingOfTheHill'', Dale represents himself while trying to sue a tobacco company for money to get Nancy a facelift, culminating in Dale examining himself in the witness stand. It doubled as a CrowningMomentOfFunny as well as a CrowningMomentOfHeartwarming.
* In ''WesternAnimation/TheVentureBrothers'', the Monarch represents himself when he's suspected of murdering a police officer, and at one point called himself to testify about the events of that night. In a later episode he does it again while subjected to a "crucible" by the Guild of Calamitous Intent, and in a deleted scene directly quotes the phrase about "a fool for a client."
* ''WesternAnimation/TheSimpsons'' episode "[[Recap/TheSimpsonsS15E4TheReginaMonologues The Regina Monologues]]": Homer represented himself instead of hiring a barrister. Marge allowed it because she didn't think Homer's chances were good enough to be damaged by the decision. Not surprisingly, Homer managed to offend the judge, jury and British public at large even further (he was on trial for crashing into the Queen's carriage) -- ending up in [[RuleOfFunny the Tower of London]].

[[folder: Real Life ]]
* In 1961, Clarence Earl Gideon, a drifter who had recently taken up being an electrician, was accused of breaking and entering after a Panama City, FL pool hall was robbed of some small change and beverages. Too poor to afford an attorney, he was subsequently denied a public defender by the judge (only in capital crimes did the judge have to provide a public defender). He represented himself in his criminal trial, and although observers say he did a pretty good job for a ''pro se'' defendant, he was found guilty of breaking and entering and sentenced to five years in prison. While in prison, Gideon appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, who (in a unanimous decision) ruled that all criminal defendants have the right to legal counsel. Gideon received a new trial, and with the aid of an attorney was acquitted of the crime. This was made into the movie ''Gideon's Trumpet'' (starring Creator/HenryFonda as Gideon).
* Comedian Creator/LennyBruce defended himself in several obscenity trials.
* In the late 1980s, in the largest organized crime trial in U.S. history, low-level mobster Jackie [=DiNorscio=] decided to stand trial rather than rat out other members of the Lucchese Crime Family and decided to represent himself because he was "disappointed" in his prior legal representation. Despite a lack of any tangible legal knowledge, and despite angering both the prosecution, the judge, and ''the other defense attorneys'' (and their clients, the other mobsters) with his CourtroomAntics, he was eventually found not guilty, along with the rest of the defendants, following a trial which lasted over a year (which some felt was the reason for the mass acquittal by the jury, as revenge on the prosecution for keeping them there so long).
* Serial killer Ted Bundy acted as his own attorney in his 1980 trial. The judge complimented him on doing a good job, in fact, and commented that Bundy might have made a good attorney. Even so, he wasn't good enough to keep himself out of the electric chair (Bundy had represented himself while on trial in Colorado earlier, and escaped by jumping out of a law library window where he had been allowed access to research his case).
* Caryl Chessman defended himself in his 1948 trial for kidnapping and, upon conviction, the judge complimented him on his legal skills before sending him to the GasChamber.
* Similar to Bundy, Mike [=DeBardeleben=], a prolific rapist, represented himself during his rape cases. It led to a HoistByHisOwnPetard moment: when cross-examining one of his victims, he led her through the rape and [[INeverSaidItWasPoison described the car she was raped in with such detail it was painfully obvious he had driven it]].
* When Creator/DaveBarry [[TheTroubleWithTickets got a ticket for driving on an expired registration]], he decided to represent himself before the court with the "strategy" of groveling. He ended up paying a fine.
* Infamous {{Moral Guardian|s}} [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Thompson_(activist) Jack Thompson]] tried this during his disbarment hearings. It didn't quite work the way he wanted, especially since he had already been declared a vexatious litigant by the State of Florida by that time and was not able to file anything without prior approval from another member of the Florida Bar.
* Courts, especially lower courts (County, District, Local, Magistrates, etc.) will bend over backwards to accommodate self-represented litigants who at least are trying to get their matter resolved. The rather amusing spectacle of a Magistrate actively helping a defendant with their case (and sometimes even Police Prosecutors, who while not allowed to directly help, may slip the defendant copies of exonerating evidence they forgot to bring to the court) is fairly common in most courtrooms. They also tend to be far more tolerant and forgiving of behavior that would usually be considered improper (as the average pro se litigant cannot reasonably be expected to have sufficient knowledge of proper courtroom behavior and procedure), but only up to a point; blatant abuse of the court's largesse or malicious, vindictive litigation will get a litigant torn apart and potentially barred from ever filing anything again without prior court approval and (usually) posting a substantial contempt bond in case the court decides to fine them.
* David Irving represented himself in his libel suit against Deborah Lipstadt for calling him a Holocaust denier. It was not a great success, seeing as how the judge [[http://www.hdot.org/en/trial/judgement ruled in Lipstadt's favor, officially declaring Irving to be a racist, anti-Semite, misogynist and Holocaust denier who associates with neo-Nazis in the final verdict]]. Particular lowlights included pedantically arguing with defense witness Richard J. Evans over which of them was an "expert in pit-digging" for five minutes, and [[EpicFail addressing the judge as "mein Führer" in front of the entire court]].
* [[http://asianhistory.about.com/od/profilesofasianleaders/p/fmarcosbio.htm Ferdinand Marcos]] was once accused of taking part in a politically-motivated assassination. Long story short, he represented himself and won. He became the President of the Philippines before implementing martial law and becoming a dictator. He was removed from power following the People Power Revolution (also known as the EDSA revolution) in 1986.
* Cult leader UsefulNotes/CharlesManson was notorious for demanding to represent himself at his trial for his mass murders despite the pleas of the judge to reconsider. Of course, the fact that he is completely deranged made him hopeless at doing that, making insane motions and requests.
* Legal practitioners wince when they hear in a bankruptcy court that a bankruptcy order should not be made against a debtor because... [[TooDumbToLive "I don't have any money."]] It's so natural to say it! However, [[CompletelyMissingThePoint that's why they're in a bankruptcy court.]]
* Pornographer Larry Flynt was known for defending himself occasionally, and to cause quite a spectacle when doing so, as portrayed by Woody Harrelson in ''Film/ThePeopleVsLarryFlynt''. In fact, Flynt's most outrageous antics were in response to the U.S. Supreme Court not allowing him to appear ''pro se''.
* When can you represent yourself and have two fools for a client? When you're representing yourself ''against'' yourself. See [[http://loweringthebar.net/case-law-hall-of-fame/lodi-v-lodi Lodi v. Lodi]], 1985.
* As explained above, most ''pro se'' defendants and litigants are actually arguing in good faith, and making a genuine effort to be reasonable within the standards of the law. However, an increasingly large class of people, defined as 'OPCA litigants' by Judge Rooke (in Alberta, Canada) stand before the court on their own because their antics are so outrageous that no sane lawyer would represent them. A recent and infamous example is Ryan Bundy, who [[http://wonkette.com/604979/surprise-ryan-bundy-goes-full-sovereign-citizen-declares-self-idiot-not-subject-to-your-damn-laws not only decided upon pro se representation, but subsequently claimed that he was incompetent to stand trial -- in his own words, declaring himself an idiot -- and attempted to charge the court millions of dollars for his time.]] Similar courtroom antics have led to many judges growing increasingly frustrated with ''pro se'' representation, whether warranted or not.
* Like most of his revolutionary peers, Georges Danton was a lawyer by trade and a eloquent orator to boot, so when the UsefulNotes/FrenchRevolution (or rather, Robespierre and the Committee of Public Safety) turned against him and put him in front of a KangarooCourt, Danton - who was denied counsel - was more than willing and able to handle his own defense. His death may have been pre-decided (and indeed it was) and the proceedings may have been a farce, but by the Supreme Being, Georges Danton would not go down without a fight. He used any trick in the book and CourtroomAntics to get justice and sway the opinion of the spectators; he nearly got away with it, but when he demanded his right to call witnesses (which he clearly had according to the letter and spirit of the law), the tribunal whose only purpose was a guilty verdict had enough and denied Danton and all other defendants the right to appear before court again. The "guilty" verdict was handed down shortly afterwards, and Danton [[OffWithHisHead had his date with Madame Guillotine]] a little after that.
* Dylann Roof, the 2015 Charleston, South Carolina church shooter, attempted this in 2016 and was quickly found guilty of nine counts of murder.
* James Romine of Digital Homicide represented himself in his lawsuit against [[WebVideo/{{Jimquisition}} Jim Sterling]] for the reason that he couldn't afford an attorney. A look at the details reveals exactly why getting a lawyer is heavily advised: Romine attempted to sue in the name of Digital Homicide LLC (a company cannot represent pro se, it has to have an attorney), via a court in Arizona (Jim Sterling isn't a resident of Arizona nor does he strictly speaking conduct business in the state, so the court had no jurisdiction over him) and with poorly presented arguments that fell straight into FrivolousLawsuit, claiming damages of ''$10 million'' which only rose as the case went on. Romine's incompetence was to the point that in Sterling's post-mortem of the case, he notes that he and his allies' reaction to Romine's antics boiled down to 'I have no idea what he's doing'.
* In ancient Athens, there were no lawyers, so parties had to represent themselves (unless they were women or children, in which case their male guardians did). They were allowed to hire speechwriters, but that was it. Naturally, this led to a lot more CourtroomAntics, and the judges too were ordinary people selected by lot. See the ''Literature/ApologyOfSocrates'' for a famous example of such a trial.