If you are threatened with Court proceedings in England, what the best steps are to take now? GSC’s most experienced Litigation expert, Barry Samuels, gives you five pieces of practical advice:

  • Find a good lawyer based in England. One who will actually read the papers, is interested in your case and is focused. Your lawyer doesn’t have to be your best friend but it is crucial to establish a good working relationship.
  • Save for emergency relief, be aware that before Court proceedings are instituted in England, a Pre-action Practice Direction or in several cases a Protocol should be followed. Designed to lead to an exchange of information and core documents, these make clear that recourse to the Court is to be a last resort. Take advantage of this. You or your lawyer writing the right letter at this stage can save time and money and may reduce the litigation risk. Take advice.
  • Accept that litigation in England is expensive. Lawyers charge hourly rates and there is a split profession; solicitors and barristers. If you win your case, you may recover some of the costs that you have expended. Lose and you can be ordered to pay a sizeable contribution to your opponent’s costs. Lose badly and that contribution can be significantly increased. This is part of the litigation risk.
  • The ever-changing English Civil Procedure Rules can seem mystifying. Strategic decisions need to be taken including written without prejudice settlement offers. Making a settlement proposal is no longer seen in England as a sign of weakness but a strategy. A rejected offer, made at an opportune moment, can expose your opponent to the risk of increased costs, higher interest charges and in many cases up to £75,000 additional damages.
  • As soon as possible collate all the papers, preferably chronologically, and prepare as detailed a synopsis as you can. Time spent on this at an early stage is time well invested. Ensure steps are taken to preserve documents and identify what witnesses may be helpful to support your position. Check their availability. English cases are still dealt by trial with oral evidence.