Litigants in person – individuals representing themselves, rather than relying on a lawyer – have always been a feature in courts, and are the source of the aphorism ‘a lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client’. While the profusion of courts means there are no easily available statistics as to their numbers, as late as 2011, about one fifth of cases featured litigants in person. Since the government slashed legal aid in April of last year, the number of them has exploded. While the funding for these cases has vanished, the right to go to court has not.
The most recent set of figures is for autumn 2013 - before many cases under the new regime were launched. Lawyers and judges tell me anecdotally numbers have spiked – about half of cases with one party or other unrepresented is a rough number that many judges and barristers agree on, and Judges have gone on the record to say unrepresented people now are the majority of cases.