Ontario Superior Court of Justice Trials

Top 10 Tips for Pre-Trial Conferences

This list is based on our firm’s extensive pre-trial conference experience both conducting and consulting on pre-trial conferences.

  1. Persuasion. The goal of the pre-trial conference is to persuade the Judge to see the case your way and to express a judicial impression to the other parties.
  2. Concise. Judges are extremely busy, often with multiple pre-trials, each pre-trial having multiple pre-trial conference briefs. Simply put, they don’t have time to read long pre-trial conference briefs and they don’t have lots of time to discuss your case. An effective pre-trial conference memorandum is only a few pages long and an effective pre-trial brief may be 50 – 100 pages, but the shorter the better (length somewhat hinges on the length of pleadings, key documents and expert reports included in the brief).
  3. Parties. Parties / clients need to be prepared for the pre-trial conference. They should have a solid grasp of their case, its strengths and weaknesses, a realistic case valuation, have reviewed the pre-trial conference briefs and know what to expect at the pre-trial conference. It is not the Judge’s role to educate the parties / clients.
  4. Witnesses. Pre-trial conference briefs should have a list of witnesses, including the party / client, lay witnesses, participant experts and rule 53 experts.
  5. Experts. Expert reports are due before the pre-trial and should be contained in the pre-trial conference brief. The pre-trial conference memorandum should summarise an expert report in 1 paragraph or less.
  6. Documents. A focused selection of key documents can be included in the pre-trial conference brief.
  7. Unlike mediation. Pre-trial conferences are not like mediation. While there is the potential to settle the case, pre-trial is not the time for a drawn out haggle over positions.
  8. Rule 49 offers. Rule 49 offers should be exchanged prior to the pre-trial conference so they can be reported to the presiding Judge. The rule 49 offers should be realistic and beatable, reflective of thoughtful case valuation.
  9. Trial management. It is necessary to be familiar with the types of trial management issues that may arise at a pre-trial conference. Reviewing witness lists and estimating the length of trial is one of several trial management issues.
  10. Reputation. Pre-trial conferences are great opportunities to get to know Judges, as they cannot preside at trial and the atmosphere is somewhat relaxed. Pre-trial conferences should be conducted bearing in mind that a trial on another case may be before the same Judge.

For more information on pre-trial conferences, please take a look at How to Conduct a Pre-Trial Conference and our Pre-Trial Conference Checklist.

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