Should I Defend Myself Pro Se when Sued for Debt

If you’re being sued for debt, do you have a chance at all to fight it, and should you defend yourself pro se?

Do you have a chance to fight it and should you do so pro se sound like two questions, but for most people they are really parts of the same question. That’s because if you’re being sued on an old debt it often isn’t for enough money to justify hiring a lawyer to defend you, you can’t afford what it would cost anyway, and frankly a lot of lawyers taking debt cases are more interested in settling the case than defending it.

Still, let’s look at the parts of the question separately.

Do you have a chance at all to fight it? Yes you do.

Your chance of winning is excellent when you’re being sued by a debt buyer (or debt collector), and a lot of people also win against original creditors, although the cases look a little different. The reason your chances are so good against a debt buyer is that debt buyers don’t, by definition, create the records of the debt on which they are suing you. In most cases that means that they cannot testify to the things that would allow them to get the records of your debt into evidence over the rule against hearsay.

I’m not saying they never could, but their business model isn’t designed to do that. They would have to train their people in the business of the companies selling them the debt, and when 90% of the cases they file come back as defaults, it just isn’t efficient to add the cost of training to avoid a few losses. So debt collectors almost never do. And that means you should pretty much always be able to defend yourself if you do it right, and you owe yourself the opportunity to do so.

Original creditors are a little different, since they do create their own records, of course. However, many of them do not keep those records, again for efficiency reasons, and they may not be willing to fight all the way in court. So your chance of winning is good there, too.

What about doing it pro se or with a lawyer?

Hiring a lawyer who will vigorously and knowledgably defend you is your best chance to win, of course. It’s the gold standard. But it can be very expensive. If you’re being sued for $10,000, it’s probably worth paying a lawyer $2,500 to defend you, but in debt cases where people are being sued for $10,000 they usually don’t have that much to pay a lawyer. That’s just reality. And what if you’re being sued for $2,000? It could cost as much to hire the lawyer as losing would cost. Or more. And no matter how good the lawyer, winning is never guaranteed.

And then there’s the nature of the debt defense business. People keep telling me the lawyers they talk to don’t want to do anything but settle the cases. I can see why the lawyers do it – fighting in court is risky and difficult, and it’s a tough way to make a living. Settling is easier and quicker, and it looks like you’re doing something for your client even if you really aren’t. It’s a dubious value proposition.

For all these reasons, people often decide to defend themselves pro se, and they come to us for help.

Debt law is highly standardized the way the debt business is set up. Debt buyers by hundreds or thousands of debts and file the very same pleadings in them all, as often as not, and the differences between the suits filed by one debt collector and another are very small, too.  From a defense point of view, that means that “if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all,” more or less. And that’s why you can indeed defend yourself – everything they do is simple, repetitive, and basic – and why we can offer the help we do. We’ve seen them all and can tell you what to expect and how to prepare for it. It means you can identify the weaknesses of their cases and attack them, and know the strategies they use and defend against them.

It isn’t rocket science, but it obviously helps if you’ve got help.

We offer that help in various ways and think you can win your case. You should defend yourself from the debt collectors, and if you can’t hire a lawyer, you can do it pro se.