Legal case management is the process by which each claim is run and all appropriate steps put in place to make sure it is ready for trial if the case proceeds that far.
Legal case management
Once a commercial litigation claim is issued a set of rules kick in to make sure all the key steps and issues in a claim are properly dealt with. These include dealing with all the key issues such as
- disclosure of documents;
- agreement of legal costs and expenditure in the claim;
- witness statements and evidence;
- experts reports;
- preparation for and attendance at trial
All matters material to the particular claim at hand are dealt with by the Judge and appropriate steps put in place to suit the claim in question. Each claim is different and must be managed by the Judge to make sure it is ultimately ready on time for trial. This is done by the Judge exercising his / her ‘Case management’ powers.
Without such rules a case could be issued and then just left to sit, or usually be ignored (as used to be the case). Without a strict timetable of actions, cases could just be left to drift. Legal case management ensures each side to a claim carries out all key steps on time and deal with their obligations to present their case.
The Civil Procedure Rules 1998 gave effect to such case management, codifying numerous rules which had arisen during the hundreds of years of English & Welsh law. This not only regulates the claim but also enables the Court to punish (or sanction) any party failing to comply with such requirements, as part of a process of fair justice and human rights which are present in many countries.
The Case Management Conference
After “pleadings have closed” – where both sides to the claim have set out their pleaded claim in via the particulars of claim and defence, the court will list the case for a Case Management Conference – a type of hearing at which the court reviews the case generally and puts in place a series of steps to take it forward to trial.
In cases outside the small claims court, the hearing is known as a Costs & Case Management Conference – as the court also needs to deal with cost budgeting during the course of the claim.
In advance of the hearing, each side needs to complete an administrative document called a Directions Questionnaire – setting out key steps and information such as number of witnesses, any applications a party might want, whether each party wants to have a break to try and settle the case and how long they estimate the trial might last.
Armed with this information from both sides to a claim – the Judge can then give “directions” that certain actions must be taken by certain dates so that the case is made ready for trial. As set out above, these commonly relate to disclosure of documents, preparation of witness statements and getting the case ready for trial.
Other key issues to consider when it comes to legal case management
The full extent of legal case management rules is wide ranging and we address below a few key aspects you might wish to consider. If you would like further information, our brilliant team is here to help.
- the rules are different dependant on whether you are issuing or defending a Part 7 Claim, a Part 8 Claim or a claim in more specialist types of proceedings;
- you must adhere to the court timetable and the steps which the judge has put in place. If you cannot meet a given date, you must communicate with the court and your opponent(s) when you cannot. You should do this in advance of a deadline expiring and seek an extension of time for the particular task to be done – and get this agreed by the court.
- if you ignore deadlines and allow the proceedings to continue, this may lead to your claim or defence being struck out and you losing the proceedings. It can also lead to you paying the other sides legal costs.
- even if you have what you consider is a reasonable excuse for such breaches, you may gain no exemption.
Whilst the rules themselves have been simplified in recent years, they can still be complex in larger cases – especially when dealing with issues such as electronic disclosure of documents. Another complexity is properly preparing costs budgets in advance of the Case Management Conference itself – and if you get this wrong, you might end up being unable to recover your legal costs off the losing party even if you are successful at trial.
We would always recommend taking expert legal advice to avoid mistakes at the legal case management stage. It is crucial to get the right directions in place and the right timetable which works for you. Otherwise you could be in the backfoot throughout the litigation and reduce your changes of success.
At Francis Wilks & Jones we have extensive experience of dealing with legal case management of commercial litigation claims and defences and advising on how best to limit your costs exposure and/or improve your position within the proceedings. Contact us today if you are in need of advice on legal case management
I was greatly impressed with the commercial, tactical and technical ability of the team at FWJ. They quickly got to grips with a complex set of facts and, through their hard work, had the proceedings against me dropped and a significant proportion of my legal fees repaid. I couldn’t recommend them highly enough.A company director
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