Thursday 14 July 2022

Learning by Doing: Examination for Discovery

One of the highlights of my summer thus far has been attending a lengthy examination for discovery (or ‘discovery’, for short) with senior counsel. While the examination took place over the course of 4 days a few weeks ago, my work on the file has been ongoing ever since. It’s always great when you can continue to do work on a file to see how it progresses and how your contribution makes an impact!

You might be wondering (like I was just a few weeks ago), what even is an examination for discovery?

Well, discoveries are a pretty significant part of civil litigation that take place before the trial. I like to think of discoveries as getting a “sneak peek” into the other side’s case. The lawyer has the opportunity to ask questions to the opposing parties about the issues at hand as well as the evidence that they provided. The proceeding is less formal than a trial: it happens outside of court, but the parties are still required to make an oath.

Prior to the discovery, I took some steps to make sure I was properly prepared. The very first step was to speak with the lawyer I was attending with. Since this was a pretty complicated case, she gave me a nice overview and a few good starting points for familiarizing myself with the case. There were over 2000 documents associated with the file but luckily, I didn’t have to review everyone! Instead, the lawyer pointed to some key documents like the Statement of Claim where I could gain a good understanding of the case. I quickly learned that the case was about a corporation suing former employees alleging that they committed fraud. Crazy!

The discovery took place virtually over zoom with a court reporter present. Despite the very contentious issues involved, the lawyers had a good rapport with each other and exchanged pleasantries. Everyone also gave me a warm welcome to the practice of law!

During the discovery, my task was to observe and take notes. In particular, it was important to keep track of what is known as “undertakings.” This happens when the opposing lawyer does not have the answer to a question you asked right away, but the information might be available at a later date. The lawyer can “undertake” to provide an answer and/or request additional information to do so.

The lawyers went right into asking questions to the witnesses once we were on the record. They also gave witnesses the opportunity to seek clarification or rephrase questions if they were not sure of what was asked of them. It was really interesting to see the different examination strategies used by each of the lawyers, and how they used the evidence to their advantage. Things definitely heated up at times, but the lawyers and witnesses remained respectful of each other throughout.

After the discovery, I was eager to remain involved with the file on the next steps. I assisted in preparing a Discovery Report by providing summaries from my notes, which were then sent to the client! I also created undertakings schedules that will be sent to opposing counsel to ensure we receive the requested information. All in all, my first discovery was a great success and I am looking forward to attending many more and hopefully running the show myself one day!