Wednesday 30 October 2019

The Virgin Diary Part II – My First Pretrial

I was recently given the opportunity to assist a lawyer on a claim involving a motor vehicle accident. The matter was coming up for a second pre-trial conference, which is one of the last opportunities for the parties to settle the dispute.

After researching different areas of the law, drafting the pretrial brief and
compiling the documents, I was prepared to attend the pretrial conference.

I had taken courses in alternative dispute resolution in law school and attended mediations but I didn’t really know what to expect from a pretrial conference. At a pretrial, there is a judge guiding the parties, trying to bring the parties towards a settlement. I was unsure how this was going to look and how this would affect all the parties’ arguments and settlement positions.

The pretrial took place in a setting resembling that of a boardroom with the judge sitting at the head of the table and the parties sitting on either side.

Below are my top 5 discoveries from the pretrial conference:

The judge means business. After walking into the room the judge immediately asked for updated settlement numbers and whether the parties were any closer to settling the matter. No pleasantries were exchanged or small talk was had.

Turned into a mediation. The judge thought it was best for the different sides to be in separate rooms and for the judge to go back and forth between the rooms like in a mediation.

Be ready for anything. No matter how much you prepare and how well you know the law, unanticipated questions and issues of the case arise. As such, it is imperative that you are quick on your feet and can find the answers in your materials as quickly as possible.

Settlement negotiation is an art form. Each lawyer has their own unique negotiation style and technique. Sometimes a lawyer will use more than one style depending on the issue being debated.

Coming close but not close enough. In this claim, there were many issues in dispute both in liability and in damages. As a result, it was very difficult for the parties to make a deal. However, on many issues, the parties made substantial ground and came much closer to a settlement.

Overall, the pretrial conference was a great experience and I look forward to being exposed to many more new opportunities as articling continues.

p.s. Read The Virgin Diary Part I - Mediations
by Israel K.