How to complete the disclosure report form

In court cases subject to the Civil Procedure Rules which come within rule 31.5(3) the parties each have to serve and file a signed Disclosure Report by a court-specified deadline before the first Case Management Conference (CMC).

What is the purpose of the Disclosure Report?

Rule CPR 31.5(3) says that the Disclosure Report should:

(a) Describe briefly what documents exist or may exist that are or may be relevant to the matters in issue in the case;

(b) describe where and with whom those documents are or may be located;

(c) in the case of electronic documents state how they are stored;

(d) estimate the broad range of costs that could be involved in giving standard disclosure in the case, including the costs of searching for and disclosing any electronically stored documents; and

(e) state what disclosure orders it is suggested the court should make.     

The courts deal with a great variety of cases. There are some commercial cases involving, say, allegations of abuse of a dominant market position going back years, in which there could be hundreds of thousands of potentially relevant documents, particularly emails. Then there are some cases, such as road accidents only involving damage to property, where there may be very few relevant documents at all (of course once litigation is threatened there may be a lot of pre-action letters/emails passing between the parties but in terms of documents which are evidence relevant to who caused the accident and the extent of the damage - the issues likely to be in dispute in the case - there will often not be that many documents in such road accident cases). Many cases, including many property cases, will be in between – there may be a number of relevant documents but not an enormous number.

The Civil Procedure Rules have to be able to cater for all types of cases and because of concern about costs in large cases where there may be hundreds of thousands of potentially relevant documents, which could potentially have to be listed and copied at the Disclosure of Documents stage, the rules allow the courts to give targeted disclosure directions so that instead of ordering wide search-based disclosure (which might require each party to carry out a reasonable search for, and list, all relevant documents) the court might order the parties to search in some places but not others, or to conduct a more thorough search in one place and only a computer keyword search in another place. In order for the court to decide whether to order wise search-based disclosure or some other, more limited, disclosure, the courts require a Disclosure Report to be produced by each party at an early stage giving a general overview of what documents there are which may be relevant.

What does "Describe briefly what documents exist" actually mean?

Sometimes people misunderstand what CPR 31.5(3) means when it asks for a brief description of "what documents exist". It does not mean a brief description of each individual document: it means a brief description of what groups of documents exist. It does not mean that you are expected to list all documents. Documents are listed at the Disclosure of Documents stage and the purpose of the Disclosure Report is to give the court information at a slightly earlier stage based on which it can consider what orders to make about disclosure of documents - e.g. whether to order the parties to carry out, at the future Disclosure of Documents stage, a reasonable search for all relevant documents and list all relevant documents found, or whether to order more targeted searches. So if the Disclosure Report itself had to list all relevant documents that would defeat the whole object of the exercise!

So you are definitely not expected to list all documents on the Disclosure Report.The first section of the Disclosure Report form (form N263 which can be downloaded from has a table to fill in, one of the columns of which is headed Document Description and that choice or words is perhaps not the best, but what the form expects, in each row of the table, is not a description of an individual document but a description of some group of documents

That raises the question of how you should group documents for the purposes of completing the Disclosure Report. The important thing is to remember the purpose of the Disclosure Report - to give the court information based on which it can decide whether to order "standard disclosure" or whether to order more targeted searches - so you should group the documents together, when completing the Disclosure Report, in a way which is likely to assist the court. If there are about 200,000 emails which are stored in a limited number of places then it is helpful to break them down - e.g.

Emails filed in central storage as relating to Project Beta (2001 to 2009)  -  70,000 approx

All emails filed in individual email account of John Smith, Project Director (1995 to 2016)   -  50,000 approx

All emails filed in individual email account of Paul Jones, Team Leader (1998 to 2014)  -   40,000 approx      

All emails filed in individual email accounts of other project team members  (1994 to 2017) - 40,000 approx   

It is also helpful if documents can be broken down based on the medium they are held in. Paper documents take longer to search than those already in PDF form - e.g.

Letters filed in paper form in central storage as relating to Project Beta (2001 to 2011)  -  1,000 approx

Letters in PDF form filed in central storage as relating to Project Beta (2001 to 2017)   -   15,000 approx 

If there are less than 500 documents in total to search through

Sometimes people involved in cases where there are only a few dozen relevant documents spend a lot of time thinking about how best to group documents when filling in the Disclosure Report but it is only necessary to go into the type of detail shown in the example above in cases where there are large numbers of potentially relevant documents. If there are less than, say, 500 potentially relevant documents in total, generally all that needs to be done is to list them in the table in section 1 of the N263 form by broad document type (Emails, Letters, Photos, Other Documents) - e.g.

Emails - approx 150

Letters - approx 50

Photos - approx 60

Other documents - approx 40

and then, in section 2 of the form, say how long it will take you to search through the documents and list the relevant documents found and provide copies to the other side - i.e. how long it might take you to provide "standard disclosure" - e.g.

I have spent 3 hours so far identifying relevant documents from the above and, at the date of signing this report, I expect that it would take me a further 2 hours work to list all the documents as needed for "standard disclosure" and provide PDF copies to the other parties.

Section 3 of the form looks complicated but if you have not specifically agreed with the other side what disclosure order should be made, and are asking the court simply to order wide search-based disclosure by both parties, all you need to do is put "Parties to give Standard Disclosure" in the box headed CPR 31.5(7) and leave the other boxes in section 3 blank. Do not fill in the box headed Form of disclosure (CPR 31.5(6)  because, despite its heading (Form of disclosure) the reference to CPR 31.5(6) means that this box is intended to be used only where the parties have specifically agreed together what disclosure order should be made.    


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This page was lasted updated in November 2017. Disclaimer