The Ups and Downs of Litigation

I’m approaching the final seat in my training contract and I cannot believe how fast it has gone. My aim is to qualify into the dispute resolution department so, rather than move seats back in April, it was decided I would remain in the dispute resolution department until October. Whilst continuing my work with Manzurul Islam, I have also been assisting Martyn Trenerry with his personal injury and contentious probate matters. I’ll be moving into the commercial property department in October, so I am looking forward to a new challenge.

I have been with the dispute resolution department for almost 18 months and have gained some excellent experience, from drafting pleadings and advising clients to conducting my own advocacy at hearings. The highlight of my time with the dispute resolution department has to be the small claims trial I conducted back in April.  

It was a low value, breach of contract claim and, other than filing a defence, the Defendant had taken no active part in the proceedings. We had received no correspondence, nor had we been served with any witness evidence or documents. In fact, the Defendant had attempted to voluntarily wind up the company. It was therefore assumed that the Defendant would not attend the trial. Given the low value of the claim and the fact it appeared unlikely the Defendant would be attending, the client decided not to pay for a barrister to conduct the trial and was happy for me to do the hearing.

Usually, when only one party attends a trial, the procedure is relatively straight forward. The party in attendance is required to give a brief overview of the claim and set out what order they are asking the court to make and why. I assumed this was all I would need to do. There was always a small chance the Defendant would attend, so I made sure I was familiar with the file and had predicted any arguments the Defendant might raise.  

When I arrived at Court, the Defendant had in fact decided to attend. I was really nervous, as this now meant I was going to have to carry out the trial rather than give a brief, straight forward presentation to the Judge.  

Once the trial commenced, my nerves settled. I was able to give my presentation to the Judge as planned and the Defendant was then given an opportunity to present his case. I then cross examined the Defendant. I really enjoyed the experience; I knew the case well which meant I was able to pick holes in the Defendant’s arguments. We were successful at trial and the Defendant was ordered to pay our client’s damages in full.

The most stressful part of litigation are the court deadlines. It’s important to stay on top of them, otherwise you risk jeopardising your client’s case. I has a case I was dealing with where the court struck out the claim on the basis of non-compliance with a court order. The client had failed to send through a copy of the court order, so we were not to blame but, nevertheless, we had to try and rectify the situation for the client. An application was made for relief from sanctions and the hearing went ahead last week. Thankfully, the breach of the court order was only trivial and the Judge granted the application. It was not an easy process and the Judge used the opportunity to highlight the importance of court deadlines.  

My tips for being a good litigator are:  

  • To ensure you know your client's case really well
  • Make sure you are always well prepared for any hearings
  • Try to stay on top of court deadlines