This is part 2 of a 3 part blog aimed to assist you manage such situations effectively, and to ultimately impress the Judge, your client, and you opponent.
If you have not received part 1 of this blog please contact me and I will make sure that you get it.
1. DRAFT YOUR MATERIAL
You have now investigated your client’s case. You know the issues. You gathered all the relevant information and developed a case theory. You have drafted the orders. Now, create an environment where you can concentrate. Hold your calls. Close your door. Start dictating the affidavit or statement. Remember to use your client’s terminology. Don’t be tempted to replace it with legal jargon. You can arrange the affidavit or statement chronologically or by addressing the issues. When you have a typed draft, work through it. Think as a Judge. What is missing? What begs further explanation? Is there anything that just doesn’t make sense? Clarify it. When it’s complete, have your client check it before it is signed.
2. SHOULD YOU REPLY?
Your application and supporting material have now been filed. You have a quick return date for the hearing. Just enough time to effect service and for the respondent to file their material. Then, you are served with a response. Do you file anything in reply? Do you have time? If there are new issues or allegations raised in the response material that are relevant, prepare an affidavit or statement in reply. If you don’t have enough time to file it before your hearing, bring the original and 2 copies to court with you. You will not be able to give evidence from the bar table but you will, in most cases, be able to file and read the affidavit or statement in reply on the day.
3. WRITTEN SUBMISSIONS
Do not underestimate the importance of written submissions. You are probably thinking you just don’t have the time. Do you have a precedent you can use? If not, this may be your opportunity to start developing your precedent base. You practice in an area where the issues are generally the same. With a precedent you can quickly amend the background information, the issues in dispute, and the orders you are seeking. Then, add anything new to the sections in your precedent that address legislation and authorities. You may write your submissions like a judgment. The Judge will appreciate your effort, and you will be able to use your written submissions as a point of reference in your oral submissions at the conclusion of the hearing.
4. CLIENT CONFERENCE
Always have a conference with your client before the hearing. Remember that your client is probably very anxious. For you, it is just another day in court. For your client, it affects their life. Try not to have the conference on the morning of the hearing but some time in advance. You have already discussed your client’s case in detail in previous conferences. Use your pre-hearing conference to explain the layout of the court, where your client is going to seat, and how the case is going to run. Tell your client they will not be in the witness box on the first court date, that it is very unusual. Discuss the appropriate dress for court, and explain that your client may bring a support person. Meet your client outside the courthouse and walk in together. It is a small gesture that has a huge impact.
Now, once inside the court, you will be able to put your preparation into practice.