BPTC – Civil Litigation
Litigation in civil law involves any step that is taken before or in contemplation of action in the civil courts and usually involves an attempt to resolve a dispute between two or more parties. Matters can be contentious and non-contentious in nature but all will be governed by tight time deadlines and strict rules of conduct. The civil law settles disputes between individuals or rights wrongs where a person has been injured or an agreement has been broken. Primarily it preserves the legal status of individuals in society. The process also includes mediation and alternative dispute resolution and its requirements and preparation.
The role of the practitioner is varied and involves taking instructions, investigating and gathering evidence, provision of advice on likely outcomes and the generation of legal documents that are accurate, clear and concise. There is the expectation that a practitioner will try to achieve an outcome without resorting to court but they will be expected to pursue a case to settlement through the presentation of a case at civil trial where necessary. All this must be done within the constraints of the statutory rules and conduct requirements of civil litigation.
Work in practice is governed by statutory rules of evidence, the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) and practitioners are guided by the White Book, the Green Book or the Red Book, all of which contain all the rules and requirements for conducting any type of civil case. The books are all essentially the same but written and published by different sources. The object of the rules are to meet the overriding objective contained in CPR Rule 1.1 which states that courts must be enabled to deal with cases justly.
The generation of legal documents is a large part of this practice area and the skills acquired are transferable to many other areas of practicing as a barrister for example, negotiation and drafting. A good sound knowledge of procedure is essential and the employment of tactics to compliment procedure and so achieve the best possible outcome for the client will develop with experience.
A competent practitioner in this area will have an excellent attention to detail and be extremely competent in dealing with timing to ensure adherence to the rules of the process prior to proceedings reaching court. Cases in the civil courts can be heard in a wider variety of courts than cases in the criminal process. The court in which civil cases are heard can be dependant upon the subject of the case or its value and starting a case in the incorrect court can involve cost implications for the client.
Whichever area of civil litigation a practitioner practices in they are constrained by these strict rules therefore sound and in depth knowledge of the process is paramount to avoid injustice to the client and inconvenience to the busy court system. Indeed a failure to adhere or some form of ineptitude can mean that a matter is dismissed without a single piece of evidence being put before the court.
Important Information for UK Law Students
The introduction of the upcoming SQE (Solicitors Qualifying Examination) will almost certainly impact on anyone entering the profession in the next few years and may even shake up the current academic landscape for entry into the profession.
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