Individuals have a right to self-representation in Wisconsin courts and in federal court. Pro se is Latin for “on one’s own behalf.” When a litigant proceeds without legal counsel, they are said to be proceeding “pro se.” See, e.g. Rivera v. Florida Department of Corrections, 526 U.S. 135 (1999). Although proceeding pro se is allowable, that does not mean it’s advisable.
The proliferation of legal self-help books such as Law for Dummies and Free Legal Help Made E-Z create the perception that anyone can successfully self-represent no matter how complicated the case. This, in turn, plays into the overconfidence effect, which biases our judgment in three ways: “(1) overestimation of one’s actual performance; (2) over placement of one’s performance relative to others; and (3) over precision in expressing unwarranted certainty in the accuracy of one’s beliefs.” Overconfidence can be dangerous. No self-help book would convince a logical person to perform an invasive surgery on themselves. Although the risks of self-representation are less drastic, the likelihood of failure is equally high.
In court, the self-represented are bound by the same rules that apply to attorneys. The right to self-representation is “[not] a license not to comply with relevant rules of procedural and substantive law.” While some leniency may be allowed to pro se litigants, “neither a trial court nor a reviewing court has a duty to walk pro se litigants through the procedural requirements or to point them to the proper substantive law.” A court’s patience will run thin quickly if a pro se litigant fails to follow the rules. As one commentary states: “Although the court may make special concessions in certain pro se appeals, it cannot be said that pro se appellants have any advantage over appellants who are represented by counsel. Whatever minor procedural deviations are allowed, a pro se appellant cannot compensate for the lack of legal training and therefore has a greatly reduced likelihood of success on appeal.”
Based on the “greatly reduced likelihood of success,” most lawyers would never recommend that someone proceed without assistance of counsel. However, there are certain situations where it is a viable option. For instance, given the lower stakes in small claims action and the fact that small claims courts routinely deal with unrepresented parties, small claims court can be an acceptable arena for proceeding pro se. The Wisconsin courts’ website publishes free legal forms for small claims. 
In short, there are a lot of factors that influence the decision of whether to retain an attorney or go it alone. If you have any self doubt about self-representation then you should seek professional legal advice.
 A “corporation must be represented by a licensed lawyer in a legal proceeding other than in small claims court. See Wis. Stat. § 799.06.” Jadair Inc. v. United States Fire Ins. Co., 209 Wis. 2d 187, 198, 562 N.W.2d 401, 405 (1997). The right to appear pro se in a civil case in federal court is defined by statute 28 U.S.C. § 1654.
 Farretta v. California, 422 U.S. 806, 834 n.46 (1975).
 Waushara County v. Graf, 166 Wis. 2d 442, 451, 480 N.W.2d 16 (1997).
 D. Walther, P. Grove, M. Heffernan, Appellate Practice and Procedure in Wisconsin, Ch. 11, sec. 11.9 (1986).
 https://www.wicourts.gov/forms1/circuit/ccform.jsp?page=3&FormName=&FormNumber=&beg_date=&end_date=&StatuteCite=&Category=51; https://www.wicourts.gov/services/public/selfhelp/docs/countylegalresources.pdf