What to expect when attending court in a civil litigation case

You might wonder what happens at a court hearing, so we have put together a fact sheet explaining what to expect at each stage of the process.

Before arriving at court

We would always suggest to clients that they review their witness statement before they attend court. Often statements were written some months prior and therefore suggest that you remind yourself of the contents.

How to dress for court

There is no particular dress code for court but we would recommend that you dress smartly.

Arrival at court

When you enter the court building your bags will be checked. Just like at an airport. If you are asked to leave any items behind the security staff will keep the item and return it to you when you leave.

After security you will be directed to a desk where you should inform them of your name and case number. They will then direct you to where you can wait.

We will arrange with you what time to attend court where you will meet your solicitor and barrister (if instructed). There we will discuss any last minute concerns and do our best to help eliminate any nerves.

Etiquette in the court room

You should turn your mobile phone to silent when you are in the hearing room.

If a member of staff says ‘all rise’ you must stand up as this means that the Judge is about to enter the room. If a member of staff does not announce the Judge’s arrival but rather they enter anyway, you should still stand.  The Judge will inform you when to sit down again.

The Judge may already be in the court room when you enter, you may see your barrister bow to the judge. You do not have to do this but you may do so if you would like to.

Giving witness evidence

If you are giving witness evidence you will be asked to swear an oath or make a legally binding promise (affirmation) that your evidence will be true.

The court usher will read out the oath or affirmation and ask you to repeat the words after them.

Whilst giving your evidence try to speak as clearly as possible. You can refer to the Judge as sir or madam. There should be water on the witness stand but if there is not then feel free to ask.

How long does a court hearing last? / Timetable of the hearing

You will be informed before the hearing how long the court hearing will last. Each hearing is given a time estimate.

Sometimes the timetables are agreed between the parties. It usually follows the following format:

The Claimant’s barrister will give an opening statement.  This gives a brief explanation of what the claim relates to and the various issues.

The Defendant’s barrister will then do the same.

Matters will then move to witness evidence. Each witness will take the stand and be questioned briefly by your own legal team and then the opposing legal team. Usually it is the Claimant’s witnesses that will take the stand first.

Once each witness has taken the stand the barristers will each make a closing argument.

At the end of the hearing

At the end of the hearing the Judge may leave the room to make their decision.

Sometimes the Judge will retire to make a decision and will ask you to wait in the waiting area. Other times a Judge may take longer to come to a decision and may write to the parties at a later date.

What happens after a court hearing?

Once the Judge has given judgment your legal team will explain the judgment and explain what happens next.

Kitsons Solicitors - Lauren Baber

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    About the author

    Kitsons Solicitors - Lauren Baber

    Lauren BaberSolicitor

    Lauren is a Solicitor in the Dispute Resolution/ Litigation team

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