Going to Court guides
Three very practical and timely guides for people considering taking a case to court. They have been written and produced by the Advice Services Alliance Advicenow project for the Royal Courts of Justice Advice Bureau.
These excellent leaflets are written in very straightforward way. The first guide looks at alternative ways of dealing with a legal problem. This is followed by an explanation of some the issues people need to think about if they want to start a court case including the risks involved, and finally the practical steps that need to be taken to start a case in court.
'Lodge your claim in good time – well ahead of any deadline. That way if there are problems with the paperwork or documents missing you have a chance to correct things in time'. ('Top Tip' from the Before you start guide)
'Check whether going to court or using an alternative method of dispute resolution offers the best way of resolving your particular problem. Don’t delay. Get legal advice'. ('Top Tip' from the Are there alternatives? guide)
Most people find the law and legal proceeding baffling and when faced with a problem are unclear about what can be done and how to go about it. These guides are written in plain English and speak directly to the reader addressing issues that they may or may not have thought about. There are many examples of common problems throughout often with specific guidance on, for example what evidence is needed to support a particular claim.
Each guide has very useful ‘Top Tips’, jargon busters, and lists of where to go for further help. The need to get legal advice and help is stressed in each guide.
The guides help ordinary people overcome the barriers they face in solving everyday problems and are an important step in improving legal capability. They may also improve the smooth running of the courts and help self represented litigants to present their cases more efficiently.
Are there alternatives ?
The first guide looks at alternatives to legal action inviting readers to ask themselves some basic questions before embarking on their journey to court, such as what do they want to achieve and whether their expectations are realistic. It covers alternatives such as negotiation, complaints procedures and has a detailed section on Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) with lots of examples of when this can be used as well as how to find an ADR provider.
The guide ends by pointing out some of the drawbacks of going to court – the uncertainty, unpredictability, expense, formality, length and the stress it can cause.
'Sometimes, ADR can lead to a solution that satisfies both sides and has a longer lasting impact on your life than anything a court is likely to achieve, for example, improved communication between you and a member of your family or a neighbour'. ('Top Tip' from the Are there alternatives? guide)
Before you start
This is an invaluable guide for people considering court action. It covers finding and naming the right defendant with very useful suggestions about how to find out more about an opponent. It covers time limits, gathering evidence, witnesses and how to compile a timeline – a list in date order of relevant actions or events about the case. The final section asks readers to consider the risks and has a list of issues that readers should weigh up before deciding to take further action.
This guide is for people who have decided that going to court is the most suitable option. It starts by listing the rules that people need to comply with, followed by court protocols and procedures with useful links to government websites. There is useful guidance on how to settle a case and a warning about court costs.
More about Royal Courts of Justice Advice Bureau guides
The guides were written by Clare Shirtcliff of the Advice Services Alliance (ASA) Advicenow project for the Royal Courts of Justice Advice Bureau. Funding was provided by the Cabinet Office, Office for Civil Society Transition Fund 2011.
Two further guides were published in September 2012: Going to Court - Starting your cliam and the pre-trial process and Going to Court - Hearings, the trial and appeals.