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A trial or a hearing is the culmination of the events to date and is the chance to have your case heard in front of a judge or magistrate. 

What Happens in a Trial?

If you have not managed to settle the dispute successfully, you will reach the trial stage. The trial is the final determination of your case. The purpose of the trial is to hear all the questions that arise on each claim throughout the proceedings. 

In most instances, a barrister will appear on your behalf, as they are experts at articulating arguments in a trial.

You can expect that the trial will start with your barrister providing their opening address which will spell out their key arguments. This is essentially a summary of the issues and evidence you rely on to prove your claim.

Following this, your barrister will go into more detail on the evidence you rely on to make these arguments. They usually complete this by presenting affidavits to the court and having witnesses take the stand one by one. If a party calls multiple witnesses, those witnesses are not allowed to enter the courtroom until they have given their evidence. This prevents them from hearing the testimony of other witnesses, which could potentially influence their own recollection.

The process for witnesses presenting evidence is a three-step process: 

1. Evidence in Chief

If you are the plaintiff, you begin with your evidence in chief. This will include the core evidence that you are relying on to put your case forward. The type of evidence here will include the: 

  • affidavit that you have helped to draft for yourself;
  • affidavits of your other witnesses; and
  • witnesses being brought to the stand to be questioned by counsel. 

The witnesses will be called to the witness box one at a time to give their evidence in support of your arguments. They will then read their affidavits to the court. This does not mean that they are actually reading the document out loud. Rather, it means that they will be relying on the contents of their affidavit while providing evidence.

2. Cross-Examination of Witnesses

Once your barrister has finished questioning a witness, the other party’s barrister will have an opportunity to cross-examine them.

This is a formal interrogation of the witness, and it should only occur if it is necessary. The purpose of cross-examination is to: 

  • elicit admissions or concessions from the witness that are favourable to the opposing side’s argument;
  • discredit, undermine or weaken the opponent’s evidence; or
  • expose deficiencies in the witness’ evidence.

3. Re-Examination of Witnesses

After cross-examination, you will have an opportunity to re-examine your witness. This allows the witness to explain any matter raised during cross-examination that may require further explanation or clarification. This is not always necessary. If the witness has sufficiently presented their evidence, there may be no need to re-examine the witness. 

Once the plaintiff has finished presenting their case, the defendant will present their case by following the same process. Following this, both parties will present their closing statements. These will be similar to the opening statements and usually summarise the case.

A closing statement is usually brief with the purpose of spelling out why your claim should be successful. It can also draw attention to any key points you have raised during the cross-examination or re-examination of the witnesses. 

What Will My LegalVision Team Be Doing?  

In most instances, your LegalVision Team will have briefed the barrister to appear at the trial on your behalf. The barrister will be arguing your case, while your lawyer will usually be sitting behind them, making sure the relevant evidence is available when counsel requires it. They will also instruct them on issues or facts, when necessary. Your LegalVision Team will, at this stage, act as a ‘go-between’ between you and counsel.

What Do I Need To Do?

If you are at this stage of the proceedings, there are a few things that your LegalVision team may need you to do. This includes:

  1. attending trial;
  2. providing evidence and being cross-examined; and
  3. considering settlement options.

This article is part of a larger publication on the NSW Local Court Process. To read about the next step in the NSW Local Court process, click here.

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