Representing yourself in court

representing yourself in court

Level: B2/C1/ C2

Type of English: Legal English / General English

Lesson activities: listening comprehension, vocabulary building, speaking practice. 

Grammar focus: using “able to”

Tags: legal english, uk law, representing yourself 

Appearing in court without a lawyer is increasingly common but can be a risky strategy. Inspired by the hit drama, You Don’t Know Me.

During the 1-hour class your teacher will take notes of your mistakes and make corrections.

These will be emailed to you after the lesson.

It is a good idea to revise the same vocabulary at the start of the next lesson.

Opening Questions:

Have you heard of the Netflix film You Don’t Know Me?

What is another way to say “does it pay” as in the video title “does it pay to represent yourself in court”?

What is a litigant in person?

In the English legal system, what is the difference between a solicitor and a barrister?

In the UK, what is legal aid?

Do you know the legal drama series Suits? What is your opinion of it?

New Vocabulary Questions:

What does it mean to mess up?

Can you name something that permeates?

Can you use the word disintegrate in a sentence?

Use the word engage in 2 different ways

What does it mean to take on a case? Can you think of something else you can take on?

Describe something that you have to deal with today.

What is the past tense of the verb deal?

What is a competent practitioner

What is the difference between the phrasal verbs “to get through” and “to go through“?

What does a gavel do?

What is a breeze?

If doing something is a breeze, what does it mean?

What is a stern letter?

In which situations could you “give in“? 

When was the last time you felt “startled“?

What can you describe as awful?

What does it mean to accompany someone in court?

If something adversely affects your life, what happened?

What’s the difference between straightforward and go straight forward?

What does it mean if your time is stretched?

Name a public utility that is under-resourced.

What is another way to say to move on?

Watch the Video:

Task: note down 3 legal expressions 

Listening Comprehension Questions:

Do you like the comparison that representing yourself in court is like being a non-dentist doing your own tooth extraction? Can you think of a better comparison?

What are some reasons why someone would choose to be a litigant in person?

How much money has been removed from the legal aid budget over the last 10 years?

What are some of the differences between criminal law and civil law?

Where do the majority of legal issues arise?

What are some examples of civil law cases?

How many pages are in the civil procedure rules book? 

What does the video say about the TV series Suits? 


Would society disintegrate without a legal system?

Discuss or explain the following quote from the video: “I was quite startled that my knowledge of the law was as little use as it was in the face of procedure”.

What problem is she talking about?


“it’s not really the right to self-representation, it’s the right to access to justice”

Does France have charities like Support to Court and Citizens Advice?


New Vocabulary Practice:

When we use new vocabulary in a different context It helps to memorize. 

Describe something that you messed up recently.

Can you use the word permeate in a sentence?

Can you use disintegrate in an example sentence?

Describe something that you are highly engaged in

Tell me about something that you have taken on 

How many problems do you have to deal with today?

What sort of professional could you describe as a typical competent practitioner?

How long did it take you to get through airport security?

How long did it take to go through the mortgage application?

Who uses a gavel?

Is there anything today that is a breeze? Tell me why

Who or what would you describe as stern?

Describe a situation when it is best to give in 

Can you think of a film that startled you?

Tell me one awful thing you have to do today

Can you think of an example of when the weather adversely affected your holidays?

Name or describe a straightforward process

Name 2 things that can be stretched

In your opinion, is the public legal system under-resourced? 

In your work, what is the next subject you will move on to?

Grammar Focus:

Using the expression “able to”

What is a similar verb to “able to”?

Why do we use able to in business English?

3 “able to” expressions from the video:

weren’t able to get advice 

to be able to get through 

and if someone is able to find the money 

Legal Vocabulary & Expressions

Can you explain the following legal expressions from the video?

to exercise your legal rights 

dealt with by different courts 

people who find themselves facing a court process 

court fees and hearing fees 

in the face of procedure 

to interpret some of the things that go on in the courtroom 

to resolve disputes


Solution and definitions:

to mess up: To make a mistake or error, to do something incorrectly or poorly.

permeates: To spread or diffuse throughout, to penetrate or pass through something.

disintegrate: To break apart into smaller pieces or fragments, to fall apart or crumble.

engage: To participate or become involved in, to occupy or attract one’s attention or interest.

to take on: To assume or accept responsibility, a task, or a role, to undertake or engage in something.

to deal with: To handle or manage a situation or problem, to address or confront something.

to deal: To negotiate or interact with someone, to handle or manage a situation or problem.

a competent practitioner: A skilled and capable professional in a specific field or occupation.

to get through: To successfully complete or finish something, to endure or survive a difficult or challenging situation.

to go through: To experience or undergo something, to examine or search through something.

a gavel: A small wooden hammer or mallet used by a judge or presiding officer to signal order or announce a decision in a court or meeting.

a breeze: A gentle and pleasant wind, something that is easy or effortless.

is a breeze: It is very easy or effortless.

stern: Serious, strict, or firm in manner or appearance.

give in: To yield or surrender, to submit or agree to something reluctantly.

startled: To be surprised or shocked suddenly, to be taken aback.

awful: Extremely bad, unpleasant, or of low quality.

accompany: To go along with or be present with someone, to join or accompany someone.

adversely: In a harmful or negative way, having a detrimental or unfavorable effect.

straightforward: Direct and uncomplicated, easy to understand or follow.

stretched: Extended or elongated, pulled tightly or strained.

under-resourced: Lacking the necessary resources, such as funding, staff, or equipment.

to move on: To progress or advance, to leave behind a situation or stage and proceed to the next one.


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