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When Lawyers Need a Lawyer: Why Are Lawyers the Worst Pro Se Litigants?

By George Khoury, Esq. | Last updated on

When push comes to shove, lawyers not only make the worst clients, they also are among the worst pro se litigants out there. At least, it seems that way given the number of stories that get reported on each year of lawyers failing to adequately represent themselves.

Just recently, the general counsel for Bowling Green State University was sent to jail for 30 days and fined $250 after his shortcomings in self-representation. The prestigious lawyer was held in contempt for unprofessional and intimidating behavior in a family court matter. What’s worse, the contempt order and jail time have resulted in the lawyer’s employment being jeopardized.

Lawyers Shouldn’t Let Lawyers Represent Themselves

Notably, in the case of Bowling Green’s GC, Sean FitzGerald, he chose to represent himself for his own divorce, which included issues pertaining to his children. A Guardian Ad Litem was appointed to represent his minor child, and FitzGerald is alleged to have stalled the proceedings by threatening to file a grievance against the Guardian Ad Litem, which would necessitate the representative’s withdrawal.

The court explained that FitzGerald’s delay in deciding to file a grievance, as well as his unprofessional conduct toward the court, opposing counsel, and even his former attorney, warranted the contempt order. The court specifically explained that the threatened grievance was an attempt to mislead the court and obstruct justice.

Simply put, particularly when it comes to family court matters, or any matter that might engender an emotional response from the attorney-party, attorney-self-representation is just a bad idea

Professional Fallout

For FitzGerald, it’s hard to imagine things getting any worse. His status as general counsel for the state university also means he is an appointed assistant attorney general for the state of Ohio. The Ohio AG office, as a result of the order, has suspended FitzGerald’s appointment. And as a result of that suspension, the university has decided to pursue its own investigation into FitzGerald.

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