One of the most useful things you can do when you’re out on bail is to secure effective legal counsel. You have the right to an attorney, and if you can’t find one, the court will appoint you one. For some reason, people have been increasingly willing to flout professional legal representation altogether and defend themselves in court.

Representing yourself isn’t a good idea, and there are several reasons why.

You Don’t Fully Understand the Law

Attorneys go to school for years to learn not only how the law works, but to work with the law. Unless you’re a lawyer yourself, you probably lack the knowledge. Rest assured that the opposing counsel does know the law, and they know it well. Would you get into the ring with a champion prizefighter after having zero training yourself? That’s what you’re doing when you try to go up against a career attorney.

You Don’t Know What to Say (Or Not to Say)

Odds are, you’re going to incriminate yourself early on in the proceedings if you decide to be your own lawyer. Words can, and often are, used to trip someone up in a court of law. If you don’t outright incriminate yourself on your own, the prosecuting attorney will likely trick you into doing so.

Nobody Will Help You

When you choose to represent yourself, you don’t get a coach, and the judge isn’t going to give you some helpful hints and tips. It’s all on you, from building the case to calling witnesses to arguing your point in front of the court. Even professional attorneys have help. They have paralegals that assist them in a variety of ways (often performing the rote, time-c0nsuming tasks that an attorney doesn’t feel like doing).

Your Odds of Being Convicted Are Higher

One way or another, people who represent themselves in court have a far higher chance of being convicted than their peers who are represented by professional attorneys. As a matter of fact, you may as well look at it as an automatic conviction, because it pretty much always is.

If you’re released on bail and have an impending court date, be sure to obtain private legal counsel or use a court-appointed attorney. Don’t go it alone.