Going to court can be daunting, and it helps to understand what is involved. Your first time in court after commencing proceedings will most likely be for a ‘court mention’ or ‘directions hearing’. This is the first step in the dispute resolution process, and is triggered when you file a claim to start proceedings in a court or have been served by another party with an initiating application (e.g. a statement of claim). This article sets out what usually happens at this first hearing, and outlines what you should consider before and on the day.

What Is a Court Mention or Directions Hearing?

A court mention or directions hearing usually marks the beginning of the court process. Attending this directions hearing will likely be the first time you attend court in this process.

At the first hearing, the court will give directions regarding the further steps to be taken in the case. Often, the court will direct parties to attend alternative dispute resolution such as court-ordered conciliation or mediation if they have not already.

However, there may be several court mentions or direction hearings throughout the lifetime of your matter (i.e. your case). The number will depend on its duration, complexity, and nature. The court refers to any subsequent hearings as ‘further directions hearings’. These further direction hearings could be for:

  • steps forward after failed mediation attempts;
  • a failure to comply with the directions of the court; or
  • an order to book in a trial date.

The central purpose of the court mention or directions hearing is so that the court can direct and monitor the progress of your case. The court uses the directions hearing to set in place a court timetable to further your case along. The court might tell the parties when they need to:

  • file a defence;
  • exchange written submissions and/or evidence; or
  • hear preliminary issues such as requests for documents to be produced or to move the case to another court.

What Orders Might the Court Make?

The court may make a variety of orders during the first or subsequent court mentions or directions hearing. This might include setting a timetable and deadlines for:

  • when each party must file and serve additional pleadings or written submissions;
  • when the parties must exchange affidavit evidence or witness statements;
  • filing certain documents and when you must supply them to other parties in the proceedings; and
  • filing expert reports.

In addition, the court may use the hearing to decide how the parties are to give evidence. This could be given verbally at a hearing, or in written affidavit form.

How to Prepare for a Court Mention or Directions Hearing?

There are a number of things you need to do before you step foot in court. Here are the five most important things to note.

  1. Know your case. It is likely the judge will ask something along the lines of “why are we here?”. You should be able to provide the judge with a quick summary of the nature of the dispute and your argument;
  2. Be clear on the compensation you are seeking. The judge will likely ask you what you are seeking. You should know whether your compensation has been pre-determined or agreed on (liquidated damages) or has not been agreed on beforehand (unliquidated damages);
  3. Know what you want the next steps to be. If you have a timetable in mind, write it down and have it ready to present to the court;
  4. Know the rules and practice notes. Different courts will have different systems and processes. You should research these before you attend court. You should be across your obligations and appropriate procedures; and
  5. Communicate with the other party so that you can come to court on the same page as to how proceedings will be run.

Key Takeaways

Going to court can be daunting. As a result, you need to be as prepared as possible to make sure that you set your case up in the best possible way. You need to be across your case’s core elements, what you want from the other party and know the next steps for getting there. You also need to ensure that you abide by court protocol and procedure. If you have any questions about a court mention or directions hearing, get in touch with LegalVision’s dispute resolution lawyers on 1300 544 755 or fill out the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is a Court Mention or Directions Hearing?

A court mention or directions hearing refers to the very beginning of the court process. It will likely be the first time that you attend court in the process of the particular case. The purpose is to allow the court to give directions regarding further steps to be taken in the case.

What Orders Might the Court Make at a Directions Hearing?

The court may make several types of orders during a directions hearing, relating to the progression of the case in the court system. This might include when each party must file additional pleadings, exchange evidence or file certain documents.

How to Prepare for a Court Mention or Directions Hearing?

The best way to prepare for a directions hearing is to know your case well, be clear on the compensation you are seeking, know what you want the next steps to be, know the rules and practice notes and communicate with the other party.

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