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  • Writer's picturePeter Lamont, Esq.

Self-Representation for Businesses in New Jersey Courts: Understanding the Limitations and Exception

In the legal world, the term pro se refers to an individual representing themselves in court without the aid of an attorney. While individuals often have the right to represent themselves, the same is not always true for businesses. In New Jersey, the general rule is that a business entity cannot appear in court pro se. This is established under New Jersey Court Rule 1:21-1(c). However, there are a few exceptions to this rule.

Court Rule 1:21-1(c): The General Prohibition

New Jersey Court Rule 1:21-1(c) states that, except as otherwise provided, no business entity other than a sole proprietorship can appear or file any paper in any action in any court of this state except through an attorney authorized to practice law in New Jersey.

This rule means that corporations, limited liability companies, partnerships, and other business entities must be represented by an attorney in court proceedings. The rationale behind this prohibition is multi-fold:

Complexity of Corporate Law: Business entities are subject to a host of laws and regulations that can be complex. Legal representation ensures that the entity's rights are adequately protected and that all legal requirements are met.

Protection of the Court's Integrity: Allowing untrained individuals to represent businesses could disrupt the court's proceedings and potentially result in injustices.

Protection of Third Parties: Third parties involved in litigation with a business entity have a right to expect that the entity will be represented by someone knowledgeable in the law.

Limited Exceptions to the Rule

While the general rule is clear in its prohibition, there are limited exceptions:

  1. Small Claims: In certain situations, a business entity may represent itself in the Special Civil Part (Small Claims) without an attorney. This is typically reserved for claims that are of a lower monetary value and less complex in nature.

  2. Administrative Proceedings: Some administrative proceedings might allow a business entity to represent itself without an attorney. However, this is subject to the specific rules and regulations of the administrative body in question.

  3. Sole Proprietorships: As mentioned in Rule 1:21-1(c), sole proprietorships are exempt from this prohibition. A sole proprietorship is not a separate legal entity from its owner. Therefore, the owner can represent the business pro se as they would be representing themselves.


Self-Representation in New Jersey's Small Claims Court: Rule 6:11

In New Jersey, the rules governing the Special Civil Part, which includes Small Claims Court, are set out in the Court Rules. Specifically, Rule 6:11 deals with appearances and the representation of parties in Small Claims actions.

Rule 6:11 - Appearances; Representation of Parties

Rule 6:11(a): Individual Parties and Sole Proprietorships. Individual parties and sole proprietorships may prosecute or defend a Small Claims action in person or be represented by an attorney.

Rule 6:11(b): Partnerships. A partnership may prosecute or defend a Small Claims action through one of its partners or be represented by an attorney.

Rule 6:11(c): Corporations and Limited Liability Companies. A corporation or a limited liability company may defend (but may not prosecute) a Small Claims action through an officer or full-time employee. Alternatively, they may be represented by an attorney.


Would You Represent Your Business in Small Claims Court without an Attorney?

  • YES

  • NO


While the allure of saving on legal fees by representing one's business in court might be tempting, New Jersey's rules make it clear that, in most cases, this is not permissible. The exceptions are limited and are in place to address specific situations where the complexities of corporate law might not be as prevalent. Any business entity considering representing itself in a New Jersey court should be fully aware of its limitations and potential pitfalls. It is always advisable for businesses to seek legal counsel when faced with litigation or any court proceedings.

Do you have questions about the legal issues discussed in this post? If so, contact us today at our Bergen County Office. Call Us at (201) 904-2211 or email Us at


If you would like more information about this post or if you want to discuss your legal matter with an attorney at the Law Offices of Peter J. Lamont, please contact me at or at (201) 904-2211. Don't forget to check out and subscribe to our podcast and YouTube channel. We have hundreds of podcasts and videos concerning a variety of business and legal topics. I look forward to answering any questions that you might have.

About Peter Lamont, Esq.

DISCLAIMER: The contents of this website and post are intended to convey general information only and not to provide legal advice or opinions. The contents of this website and the posting and viewing of the information on this website should not be construed as, and should not be relied upon for, legal or tax advice in any particular circumstance or fact situation. Nothing on this website is an offer to represent you, and nothing on this website is intended to create an attorney‑client relationship. An attorney-client relationship may only be established through direct attorney‑to‑client communication that is confirmed by the execution of an engagement agreement.

As with any legal issue, it is important that you obtain competent legal counsel before making any decisions about how to respond to a subpoena or whether to challenge one - even if you believe that compliance is not required. Because each situation is different, it may be impossible for this article to address all issues raised by every situation encountered in responding to a subpoena. The information below can give you guidance regarding some common issues related to subpoenas, but you should consult with an attorney before taking any actions (or refraining from acts) based on these suggestions. Separately, this post will focus on New Jersey law. If you receive a subpoena in a state other than New Jersey, you should immediately seek the advice of an attorney in your state, as certain rules differ in other states.


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