What is Pro Se?
Pro Se is a legal term. It means to appear before a court by yourself, without the help of an attorney. It is also used for quasi-judicial appearances, such as, appearing before the US Patent & Trademark Office without an attorney.
There are a few benefits to appearing pro se. The benefits include:
- No attorney cost.
- Tell your story in your own voice.
- May not be available if you have incorporated.
There are a few disadvantages:
- Impossible to be objective with yourself.
- Significantly more time and energy to prepare.
- Must know the statutes, procedures, and local rules.
- Cannot approach the court (or an opposing party) without going through your attorney.
In some cases, pro se individuals can lessen the disadvantages by using limited services from an attorney; this is sometimes called unbundled services. A limited representation may limit the scope or work (and thereby, the attorney fees) for the client in variety of ways, for example, to review a important documents prior to filing, to help create a strategy, to prepare for a deposition, etc. However, the scope of a limited representation probably cannot include any appearance before the court, because, after appearing before a court, the court must give the attorney permission to exit the proceeding.
At the time of this writing, as I presently understand the US Patent & Trademark Office's ethical cannons, US Patent Attorneys are not permitted to help pro se inventors on a limited basis. In other words, if a US Patent Attorney helps an pro se inventor, then, the patent attorney must also appear before the US Patent & Trademark Office.