People walking up historic staircase

Preparing for a Final Hearing (Employment Tribunal)

Having the chance to attend a Final Hearing is an exciting opportunity to have as a trainee. The Final Hearing is the end product of months, and often years, of hard work and preparation. Many cases often settle before they make it to a Final Hearing, so attending one during your time as a trainee is also a relatively rare opportunity to have.

I am currently three months into my time with the Employment team and have been fortunate enough to attend two Final Hearings, with another on the horizon. In this trainee blog, I will outline what to expect as a trainee when approaching a Final Hearing and how best to support your team during this busy time.

It is important to note that this post relates to Final Hearings in the context of the Employment Tribunal. Employment claims proceed to the Employment Tribunal in the first instance and cases do not follow the Civil Procedure Rules, but instead use the Employment Tribunal Rules of Procedure. Therefore, please be mindful of this when reading this blog.

  1. Witness Management

As the Final Hearing approaches, the bulk of the work requiring critical thinking, such as drafting the Grounds of Resistance and preparing Witness Statements is complete. Therefore, much of the work in the weeks and days directly before the Final Hearing relates to case and witness management. The majority of cases have a number of witnesses on both sides, many of whom have not been involved in litigation before, so do not know what to expect during the Hearing. It is important to assist the witnesses in feeling as prepared and as comfortable as possible for the Hearing. A typical trainee task, therefore, involves liaising with witnesses and Counsel to arrange conference calls ahead of the Hearing. These calls are useful to run through the process, to let witnesses know the order of proceedings and for everyone to meet (virtually) ahead of the Final Hearing.

  1. Preparing bundles.

At this point in the litigation process, the Final Hearing bundle will already have been agreed and prepared. However, as the Hearing draws closer, trainees are often tasked with preparing witness bundles and remedy bundle. These are bundles of documents which will be used by the Tribunal during the Hearing, specifically during witness questioning and when making a remedy judgment. It is important to liaise with Counsel to ensure the bundles are prepared in their preferred order, as they will be presenting the case and need to know where to find relevant documents quickly and efficiently.

  1. Review the papers

As a trainee, it is unlikely that you will have been involved with the case since the start, but it is important to have an understanding of the facts. While trainees are not expected to know every detailed legal argument, it is helpful to have an understanding of the facts and issues in dispute. Take the time read through the pleadings and witness statements to give an overview of the case. This will allow you to follow what is going on during the Final Hearing and maximise your own learning.

  1. Take the Note

During the Final Hearing, trainees are often tasked with taking a note of what is said. This is where having an understanding of the issues at play really helps. Active listening and an ability to keep track of what is said is important and a way to add value to your team.

  1. Enjoy the Process

Litigation can be an emotive time and tensions can be high, but this is the cumulation of months and often years of work. Use it as an opportunity to learn from those around you, and develop your litigation experience.