Index of Content

A Practical Guide to Civil Litigation

Authors : Robert Hill, Helen Wood and Suzanne Fine
Publisher : Jordan

The target readership for this new publication is the ranks of newly qualified lawyers who are faced with the anxieties of putting the training they will have received at university and law school to practical use in the day to day business of the courts. It is also intended as a practical guide for anyone needing a quick point of reference and wanting to avoid plunging into either of the practitioner's litigation bibles, the White and the Brown Books for the fully detailed answers. This useful book certainly succeeds in its purpose.

The book has been written in a style that enables the reader to assimilate easily the essential features of the topics covered. Where technical terms are used they are immediately explained which enables the novice litigant to read on with the minimum of confusion. By abridging the practitioner's standard texts, it could even tempt the enthusiastic novice litigator, armed with sufficient stamina and coffee, to read it in one gulp from cover to cover. Used more practically as a quick reference book, it is well organised into 10 parts giving easy access to the information required.

Each part is divided into clearly defined sub-sections. The first part, which covers the important preliminaries to litigation contains sub sections on why ADR must be considered, on the pre-action protocols, particularly concentrating on those for personal injuries, clinical negligence and professional negligence and also covers the principal methods by which litigation may be funded through CFAs and insurance backed arrangements. Later sections deal with the skills involved in effective litigation, including taking instructions properly and taking evidence without colouring the witness's statement or failing to include comment on essential issues. The authors provide some interesting thoughts on the mental processes that are required to formulate the coherent presentation of the case in court that the newcomer should find particularly stim~lating and instructive.

The authors' first hand experience of how cases should and should not be presented is quite apparent ITom the useful advice they give on preparing efficiently for both interim applications, including case management conferences, as well as final trial hearings. A poorly presented case may at worst produce an adverse result for the client, but even if that is avoided, at best it will not only tend to lengthen the hearing by confusing or irritating the judge, but will reflect little credit upon either the advocate or his or her solicitor. Here, there is some golden advice given about formulating the structure of an argument, the way in which it should be delivered to have the most impact upon the listener and even extending to advice upon choosing the right words.

Equally helpful and instructive is the section on negotiation. The authors rightly dwell on the need, not only to ensure that the merits of the client's case are fully considered but that the client's overall interests are also taken into account. It may be better to accept (or pay) a sum fixed by the certainty of an agreed settlement than risk failing to obtain the hoped for just result. The publicity attendant upon the hearing of some actions is considered and also the inevitable (and irrecoverable) expenditure of valuable management time.

There is a sensible, if short, guide to the practical problems and benefits of instructing an expert and a reference to the guide to instructing experts contained at Part 35 in the White Book. Although most of the important issues are outlined, the benefits of instructing an expert as early in the process as may be practical are not given much weight. The importance of discussing the case in outline with an expert, so that the expert may indicate what documents or other information will be needed for him to provide an effective report, is however mentioned.

The aftermath of an action is not overlooked and there is a comprehensive treatment of the subject of costs, including the various forms of costs and how and why they are given, the whole process of the assessment of costs, as well as appeals and the enforcement of judgments or orders.

Apart from the main topics, there are a number of useful features, including a handy reference guide to the more significant legal websites and other written sources of case and statute law- in the chapter on legal research. There is a short thumbnail guide to the contents of each part of the CPR in the first appendix. The appendix also includes a full copy of the Queen's Bench Guide to its working practices.

If a detailed answer is sought to the issues that arise in litigation, for example those that arise on disclosure or drafting statements of case, the reader is encouraged to look elsewhere. On the other hand, if a general guide to the whole process, a reminder of the innumerable pitfalls, a route around the pratfalls and some very useful tips on oral and written presentation is required, then this book is a musthave for every newcomer to litigation and particularly every newly qualified solicitor, barrister or legal executive.

The Academy of Experts, The Expert & Dispute Resolver
Reviewed by Charles Gardner CAE
Autumn 2004

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