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How to Find a California Small Claims Lawyer

Camila Lopez - Defendants - August 26, 2022

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Looking for a California small claims lawyer? Whether you are suing over a security deposit or a car accident, here is what you need to know about California small claims and lawyers. 

In this article, we cover the following topics:

  • Can I hire a lawyer to represent me in California small claims?

  • How do I find a California small claims lawyer near me?

  • What type of lawyer do I need for my California small claims lawsuit?

  • How do I sue in California small claims without a lawyer?

  • What to do if you have been sued in California small claims court?

Can I hire a lawyer to represent me in California small claims?

Only you can represent yourself at the small claims hearing. You can hire a lawyer to ask questions before or after your California small claims hearing. 

Why can’t I have a lawyer represent me? The California legislature did this to even the playing field between the person suing in small claims and the person being sued. If neither party can hire a lawyer to represent them then they have to represent themselves.

How do I find a California small claims lawyer near me?

It isn’t easy finding a lawyer to help you with your California small claims. Here are a list of reasons why:

  • Many lawyers charge on a contingency. A contingency means that the lawyer only gets paid a percentage of what you win if you win. The California small claims limit is $10,000 which means that if you win, a lawyer may only get paid $3,000 (assuming they charge you 30%).

  • The average hourly fee for a lawyer in California is $350. A lawyer would prefer to be hired for more than a couple of hours. That makes the economics of small claims difficult. If you are owed $2,000 for your security deposit, hiring a lawyer may cost you half of what you stand to win if you have to hire a lawyer for 3 hours. 

  • Most lawyers aren’t “small claims lawyers.” Small claims is a type of court. Lawyers specialize in a type of law like: landlord/tenant law, personal injury, lemon law. 

What type of lawyer do I need for my California small claims lawsuit?

Remember, lawyers don’t specialize in “small claims” but in a type of law. This means you first have to narrow down what type of case you have and search for lawyers that know the type of law involving your small claims lawsuit.

Here are some examples:

  • If your landlord didn’t return your security deposit, you are looking for a Landlord/Tenant attorney.

  • If you got in a car accident and your car has been damaged, you may want to try speaking to a personal injury attorney even if you have not been injured as personal injury attorneys commonly handle the property damage as part of the personal injury case. 

How do I sue in California small claims without a lawyer?

  • Prepare the California small claims lawsuit. 

  • File the California small claims lawsuit. Learn more about filing here. 

  • Serve the California small claims lawsuit. This means you have to notify the person or business you have sued that they have been sued. Make sure to file the Proof of Service (proof that the lawsuit has been served).Learn more about serving a small claims lawsuit here

  • Prepare your evidence. You want to make sure you have any pictures, contracts, and text messages ready to go for the small claims hearing. Make sure you have your evidence organized with page numbers, titles, and a table of contents to make it easy on the small claims judge. 

  • Prepare for your hearing. Make sure you practice what you are going to say to the judge and bring 3 copies of all your evidence. 

What to do if you have been sued in California small claims court? 

If you have been sued in California small claims, here is what to do:

  • Review the lawsuit you received. This will help you learn (1) who has sued you (2) why you have been sued, (3) how much are you being sued for. 

  • Consider hiring a small claims lawyer. While a lawyer cannot represent you in California small claims, you can ask them questions before the hearing and after the hearing. 

  • You don't have to file any documents to respond to the lawsuit.  You are expected to show up at the hearing and represent yourself in court. 

  • What are your defenses? Make a list of reasons why the person who sued you should lose in small claims court.

  • Consider a settlement. Do you think the person who sued you is partially right? Consider settling with them before the hearing. Once you reach an agreement, then the small claims lawsuit can be closed. 

  • Consider suing the person who sued you. This is called a countersuit. Learn more about small claims countersuits here. 

  • Prepare your evidence. You want to make sure you have any pictures, contracts, and text messages ready to go for the small claims hearing. Make sure you have your evidence organized with page numbers, titles, and a table of contents to make it easy on the small claims judge. 

  • Prepare for your hearing. Make sure you practice what you are going to say to the judge and bring 3 copies of all your evidence. 

Chief Legal Architect & Co-Founder @ People Clerk. Camila is an attorney, consumer advocate, and certified mediator. Her passion is breaking down complicated legal processes so that people without an attorney can get justice.

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