What is a directions hearing and how should I prepare for it?
If you are involved in a legal dispute, you may be called before a court for a directions hearing. This is a short court appearance where a judge or registrar will make orders outlining the next steps that need to be taken to resolve the dispute.
In the NSW Supreme Court, a first directions hearing will usually be scheduled three months after the matter has entered the court list. This alerts all parties involved that there is a legal matter before the court.
First directions hearing encourages parties to reach an out-of-court settlement
In the first directions hearing, the judge or registrar will usually direct the parties to try to resolve the matter by mediation before it ends up in court.
Saving time, money and stress, it is in the interests of all parties to settle the legal dispute via a mediation process.
What happens if mediation is unsuccessful?
If mediation fails or one of the parties fails to comply with the direction, the matter comes back to the court for further directions hearings.
Here, the court will prepare “short minutes of orders”. This outlines exactly what each party needs to do before the matter is back in court.
The aim is to reduce the costs and time involved in the ensuing legal proceedings.
The short minutes of orders is essentially a numbered list which includes the following.
- when and how the parties should attend further mediation
- when the case will be back in court for another directions hearing
- serving and filing points of claim or a Statement of Claim
- serving and filing evidence
- the making of admissions
- the filing of a list of documents and the supply of those documents to all other parties in the proceedings
- a timetable for the exchange of expert reports
- how evidence will be presented – either by affidavit, in person in court, or whether to use telephone or video conferencing facilities
- a date for a further directions hearing
Engaging a solicitor to best represent your case
To represent you properly at a directions hearing, your solicitor will need to be supplied with all the information and documentation that is relevant to your case.
This includes providing sufficient instructions, so that he or she has a comprehensive understanding of the dispute and your position before the proceedings begin.
It is imperative that you and your solicitor discuss what orders you wish to seek, so that you are in agreement about how best to present your case.