A vital step when approaching trial
If ever the saying “time is money” were true, then it must be when you talk about lawyers. With the guideline hourly rate for a partner regularly exceeding £200 an hour, any steps which help to reduce the time spent on a case are worthwhile taking.
As a case approaches a hearing in court, one method of reducing the time spent is by preparing a “court bundle”. Court bundles are usually required for any case that appears in court. The idea is that the judge will be able to pre-read all the relevant documents in the case. All the parties will also have all the evidence and copies of any precedents collected together in one place, making it easier to refer to information during the trial. In theory there is no reason why simply making copies of all the relevant documents in a case should be problematic, but it may not surprise you to learn that all kinds of problems happen in practice.
The main problem is the sheer amount of paperwork that needs to be dealt with. It is difficult to ensure that all the relevant documents in your own case are properly included, much less to check what the other side has included in the bundle. To give you an idea of the size of the task, a very small court bundle might run to several hundred pages. More often than not, a court bundle can be several thousand pages. If this were not bad enough, the bundle also has to be copied at least three times: one copy for you, one for the court and one for the other side. If you have counsel acting for the parties or more than one defendant, further copies would have to be prepared for them. The time involved just copying the documents is substantial, but even more time needs to be spent assembling, paginating (numbering the pages), checking and agreeing a bundle.
The responsibility for preparing the bundle usually falls to the party that made the application for a hearing. They are responsible for paginating it, which means that they will have to try their best to agree the contents with any other parties.
Contents of a court bundle
A court bundle should contain copies of the following documents, in chronological order from the front of the bundle:
(a) Preliminary documents and any case management documents;
(b) Applications and orders;
(c) Statements and affidavits (which must be dated in the top right corner of the front page);
(e) Experts’ reports and other reports; and
(f) Any other documents, divided into further sections as appropriate.
In addition to these documents, some courts require up-to-date summaries of matters relevant to the hearing; statements of issues to be determined; position statements from each party, including a summary of orders sought; a chronology; skeleton arguments; and lists of essential reading.
Format of the bundle
Bundles are usually contained in one or more A4-size ring binders or lever arch files (each lever arch file being limited to about 350 pages).
All ring binders and lever arch files need to be clearly marked on the front and the spine with:
(a) The title and number of the case;
(b) The court where the case has been listed;
(c) The hearing date and time;
(d) The name of the judge hearing the case (if known); and
(e) Where there is more than one ring binder or lever arch file, a distinguishing letter (A, B, C, etc.).
Timetable for preparing the bundle
Preparation of the bundle is often left until the last minute to potentially save on the cost of having to prepare it. This naturally can cause the person left to the task some difficulties, to put it mildly. Cases can have different deadlines for the bundle to be lodged, but as a general rule if less than a working week is left to prepare the documents, it is very likely that mistakes will be made. In the worst case, a bundle might not be lodged at all. If this happens, then the Court may decide that a hearing must be adjourned, and your firm will pay the costs incurred by your opponent.
As a legal secretary, you are probably highly organised and methodical. With these traits, you should approach the task of preparing a court bundle with confidence. Mastering this task will ensure that you are always in great demand in any litigation department.
Example Content for a Simple Court Bundle
Statement of evidence
Correspondence from claimant
Correspondence from defendant
Relevant case law summary
R v Stephens
Terms & Condtions 1997
Terms & Conditions 2005