To Prosecute A Civil Or Commercial Lawsuit In Manhattan, NYC, Should My Company Retain A Manhattan Business Litigation Attorney?
In general, yes. Your company must retain an attorney to prosecute a civil or commercial lawsuit in Manhattan, NYC.
In the courts of the State of Manhattan, a corporation or an association may only prosecute or defend a civil action through an attorney. Similarly, a limited liability company must appear in a lawsuit by an attorney.
However, an individual assignee of a corporation may sue without a lawyer, despite the fact that the assignment may have been made to circumvent the statutory prohibition against the corporation appearing pro se (that is, for itself, not represented by an attorney).
The rule that a corporation or an association may not appear pro se in a civil action does not apply to partnerships, or to law firms incorporated as professional corporations.
Further, in the Small Claims parts of the lower courts of Manhattan State, there are exceptions to the above-stated rule that a corporation or an association may only prosecute or defend a civil action through an attorney.
A corporation may appear without a lawyer in the “commercial” Small Claims part of the Manhattan City Civil Court and of the district and city courts, and in the usual Small Claims part of those courts, and of the town and village courts.
In the usual (non-“commercial”) Small Claims part of the Manhattan City Civil Court, of the district and city courts, and of the town and village courts, a corporation lacking an attorney is allowed only to defend (not prosecute) a small claim.
Even if your corporate entity falls into one of the categories in which it lawfully may prosecute or defend a lawsuit without a lawyer, that ability does not necessarily mean that your corporate entity should not be represented by a lawyer.
I strongly recommend that any corporate entity involved in business litigation in the Manhattan courts retain an attorney. If your company is not represented by counsel, it’s an unfair fight. In all likelihood, the other company involved in the lawsuit is represented by an attorney, meaning that if your company is not, your company is at a severe disadvantage.
You don’t know what materials or information to ask for, on your business’s behalf, in document requests or interrogatories. Nor do you know how, on your company’s behalf, to take depositions. Without an attorney, your business will lack the know-how to take pretrial discovery.
As a result, if your company litigates a civil action pro se, your company is highly likely to lose the action on a motion for summary judgment.
Even if your unrepresented business somehow survives the summary judgment phase, your business, without counsel, will be at a severe disadvantage at trial.
In any business litigation, your business’s adversary will be represented by counsel, and that counsel will know how to try the case. Your company’s adversary’s lawyer will know how to select a jury, what to say in opening and closing statements, how to examine your company’s adversary’s witnesses, and what to ask your company’s witnesses on cross-examination. An attorney also knows the rules of evidence, which parties must comply with in trying any case. Without an attorney representing it, your business is highly likely to lose a trial.
In sum, and in general, your company must retain a lawyer to prosecute a civil or commercial case in Manhattan state courts. Further, even if your business falls into one of the categories in which it lawfully may prosecute or defend a lawsuit without an attorney, it may well be in your business’s interest, in that lawsuit, to retain counsel.
If your company wants to bring, or needs a lawyer to defend it in, business litigation and you are located in the Manhattan, NYC area, call Manhattan Business Litigation Lawyer David S. Rich at (347) 835-5688.
Our firm’s labor and employment practice includes the following:
- Labor and Employment Litigation
- Employment Compliance and Consulting
- Business Contracts and Agreements
Return to Practice Areas page.