Taking someone to court should be a last resort after all else fails and you feel there’s no other alternative. It’s not an easy route, nor is it a cheap one.
The first rule where there is a dispute, is to contact the other party to try to resolve it or at least negotiate a compromise acceptable to both parties. Failure to reach such an agreement may mean that litigation is on the horizon.
This puts most of us in a precarious position since instructing a solicitor is extremely costly. Most solicitors charge in the region of £300-£600 per hour, and there’s no legal funding to assist. Or, if you are a litigant in person you can instruct a paralegal to assist you through the process. Most paralegals will charge around £30-£80 per hour for their services.
While paralegals don’t have an automatic right to speak on your behalf in court (unless it is a small claim or before a Tribunal), they may be granted this right at the discretion of the Judge. The next alternative is to instruct a barrister on a Direct Access Basis. Barristers may charge £200-£400 per hour for their services, but you only pay for the work they actually do.
Of course, you can represent yourself in court as a Litigant in Person. This will be a nerve-racking process for someone without experience of ever being in a courtroom before. Questions such as: ‘Where do I sit?’ ‘Who starts talking first?’ ‘How do I address the Judge?’ spring to mind.
So, generally, when you face the bench where the Judge sits, the Claimant or their legal representative sits on the left and the Defendant or their representative sits on the right. When the case is introduced by the Clerk, the Judge comes into the courtroom. The case commences with the claimant outlining their case and introducing any witnesses.
You would have already received the statements of case ‘ the claim form and particulars outlining the claimant’s case. The Defendant would have submitted a Defence outlining their case. There would have been a scheduled timetable to follow, which means that by a certain date and time, both parties would need to 1. Disclose to the other party, all the evidence that they intend to use to prove their case. 2. Produce and exchange witness statements. 3. Produce and exchange any expert witness statements.
Therefore, by the time the case arrives in court for the full hearing, you would know all there is to know about the case. The hardest part of the process is to cross-examine witnesses who are called to give testimony. This isn’t easy and is where the skill of an advocate, such as a barrister, would come in useful.
Remember, the best way to deal with a dispute of any kind, is to come to an amicable resolution if you can. The final alternative is to litigate, but ensure this is fully thought through beforehand, particularly in respect of the costs.