Organising Documents for a Civil Court or Tribunal Case


Introduction

Document management - documents saved on a folder on your computer and documents in Bundledocs

Once litigation has started, or is about to start, relevant documents are held in Bundledocs, It is important only to store relevant documents in Bundledocs because your barrister will be referring to Bundledocs each time you ask them to do a piece of work and if the barrister has to look through many irrelevant documents on Bundledocs that will be likely to increase the fee they quote for each piece of work.

At the outset, even before advice is first sought from a barrister, it is important that steps are taken to preserve all documents which might be relevant evidence. At this early stage a fairly wide view is taken of what might be relevant. The next stage is to take advice from a barrister about the prospects of success in various kinds of potential legal action and when asking a barrister to advise it is convenient to load copies of at least what appear to be the most important documents to a folder on your computer called, say Potentially Relevant Documents so that you can make them available to the barrister whose advice you are seeking.  As part of the process of asking a barrister to advise (a) some key relevant documents may be identified, and (b) some documents may be considered and deemed to be not obviously relevant to the particular legal case which is to be advanced. 

At the start of litigation the barrister would normally, as part of the process of drafting pleadings and/or applying for temporary relief (such as an interim injunction), identify and load copies of documents to Bundledocs for you but, thereafter, it is your responsibility to identify further relevant documents to be loaded. 

Documents in category (b) would not be loaded to Bundledocs but they should be kept in the Potentially Relevant Documents folder on your computer because sometimes a document deemed not obviously relevant unexpectedly becomes relevant when another document is being considered. Take the example of a dispute about a right of way. Whether a certain route has been used, as of right, for at least 20 continuous years in the past may be relevant to whether a right of way exists, and whether a made up track existed over that route at particular times in the past may therefore be relevant. Correspondence indicating that a water tower (some distance east of the route and not accessed by it) was built in 1925 would be, on the face of it, irrelevant. Likewise correspondence indicating that a radio mast was erected in 1950, some distance further east, would also seem irrelevant. But suppose some old photographs come to light, taken looking east and showing the track. Any photo in which neither the water tower nor the radio mast can be seen must have been taken before 1925. Any photo showing the water tower but not the radio mast must have been taken between 1925 and 1950, and any photo showing both must have been taken after 1950. So it turns out that the correspondence, previously thought irrelevant, happens to be relevant, in combination with the old photos, because it helps to date the photos and thus shed light on the question of for what period of time the track was made up and, presumably, used. So once copies of documents have been loaded to the Potentially Relevant Documents folder on your computer it is convenient to keep them there even if they appear to be in category (b) so that the question of their relevance can be revisited in future in the light of developments. If and when it becomes apparent that a document (whether stored in the Potentially Relevant Documents folder on your computer or not), which was not previously thought relevant, is, after all, relevant, it can be loaded to Bundledocs.    

As the litigation process proceeds it will at some stage be necessary for documents not so far considered in detail (i.e. those not in category (a) or (b)) to be considered by you. This might consist in reviewing every document not so far considered or, if there are thousands of such documents, some form of initial selection, such as keyword searching, may be used to "cull" some of the documents so that only a subset are then reviewed by you in detail for relevance. You might carry out searches in public records and/or potential witnesses may be asked whether they have relevant documents. This process will result in some further documents being identified as relevant which would then be loaded to Bundledocs. You might also identify documents which, although not obviously relevant, are the kind of documents which (like the correspondence about the water tower and radio mast in the example above) might conceivably become relevant in combination with other documents which might be discovered in future. It is convenient to store such documents in the Potentially Relevant Documents folder on your computer.  

You have to carry out this document management function, loading identified relevant documents to Bundledocs for the use of the barrister, and keeping other documents - those not currently obviously relevant but to be kept under review - in the Potentially Relevant Documents folder on your computer to be copied to Bundledocs if developments make them relevant after all.


If you use cloud storage don't have me on your access list

Sometimes it is convenient, instead of emailing to me a document you might want advice about, to load the document to cloud storage such as MEGA and provide me with a link, and initially when you first asked me for advice you might even have given me general read access to a particular folder on your cloud storage. However now that legal proceedings are underway you will be granting me access to the Bundledocs bundle, as described below, so that I can use it for reference each time you ask me to do the next piece of work as the litigation proceeds. I do not need general access to your cloud storage - indeed it it best if you do not grant me continuous access as, because of the way the human mind works, if I have access to your cloud storage you may start to think - perhaps subconsciously - that when doing each piece of work you ask me to do, I will be considering everything contained in your cloud storage when, in fact, it will be the Bundledocs bundle that I will be turning to when carrying out each piece of work.

Apart from saving costs, by only having to look in one place,  a further reason why I use the documents in Bundledocs (and not your cloud storage) is that if key documents have been accidentally missed out of the Bundledocs bundle I am more likely to spot that if that is what I am working from. It is always your responsibility to ensure that the Bundledocs bundle contains everything which will be needed at trial, and you should not rely on me happening to spot something missing, but if I work from the bundle documents that has the advantage that I might spot that something is missing if it happens be be something I am looking for as part of the particular piece of work I am doing at that point.       


What you should load to Bundledocs       

Most documents you send or receive during the course of the litigation, including both correspondence about the case and formal litigation documents, will be automatically stored in your email system, but you will find that, as litigation proceeds over many months, you will end up with a large number of emails in your email system, so, whenever you receive, or send out, a key formal litigation document, you should store a copy of it in the appropriate location in Bundledocs, as described below, so that you can easily locate these important documents when needed as the case proceeds, and not have to search for them in your email system.   

At the Disclosure of Documents stage the other side will provide you with copies of their documentary evidence – e.g. photographs or documents which came into existence in the ordinary course of events in the past such as letters, invoices, written agreements, emails, diaries, logs etc. which are probative of issues in dispute in the litigation. These items of documentary evidence should initially be stored in as separate section, as should your own documentary evidence which you will be disclosing, as it makes the disclosure of documents more straightforward. But once the Disclosure of Documents stage (or stages as sometimes disclosure in stages is directed) is complete,the documents are combined in a single section (but it is still possible to tell from the Disclosing Party column which documents were disclosed by which side).   

Most documents which have been provided by one side to the other can, in principle, be provided to the court/tribunal. There are in fact practical reasons why the court/tribunal does not want to be provided with all the documents but in principle there is no problem with the court/tribunal seeing them. The exception is what is known as "without prejudice" correspondence. In order to encourage parties, if they choose to, to explore the possibility of an agreed settlement, there is a rule - in fact two rules - which mean that:-

a) "without prejudice except as to costs" correspondence cannot be shown to the court/tribunal until after the judge has decided who wins at the final trial. After the judge has decided who wins, "without prejudice except as to costs" correspondence can be shown to the judge and may influence what costs orders the judge then makes (e.g. if a party wins partly and does less well than a "without prejudice except as to costs" offer by the losing party the winning party may be ordered to pay some of the costs of the losing party incurred after the point when the winning party failed to accept the offer).

b) unqualified "without prejudice" correspondence can never be shown to the court/tribunal (unless, of course a binding settlement is reached in which case there will be no trial, or in certain other very exceptional circumstances)

Because of these special rules, (a) would be stored in a special For Costs Arguments bundle to ensure that it is not accidentally provided to the court/tribunal prematurely. This special bundle would also contain other key documents relating to costs which, though there is no prohibition of providing them to the court/tribunal before the end of the trial, will, in practice, not be relevant until after trial. (b) would not be stored in a bundle at all.                  


The main bundle

The documents to be stored in Bundledocs are shown in the tables below. As well as making sure you do store the key formal litigation documents in the correct sections in the main bundle as soon as you send or receive them, it is equally important that you do not store, in a section, a document which does not belong there. If, for example, you were to store every piece of correspondence sent or received, into the sections intended for formal litigation documents, “just in case”, that would defeat the object because the important documents would be lost among the mass of more routine correspondence.

NOTE: If you are involved in both a court case and a tribunal case at the same time - for example if you are claiming an injunction in High Court proceedings and, having granted an interim injunction, the High Court has stayed the case so that you can apply to the Land Registry and the Land Registry has referred your case to the First-tier Tribunal, then you will have two sets of bundles, one for the Court proceedings and one for the Tribunal proceedings, and it is important to name them distinctly so, for example, you might name one bundle Smith v Jones - High Court and the other one Smith v Jones - Tribunal.           


Section Title Order Documents byWhat documents should be stored in the section

Pleadings

 
Date

Pleading documents, otherwise known collectively as statements of case, are the documents in which each side seeks to define concisely the assertions it makes and to what extent it agrees with or disputes the assertions made by the other party. Pleading documents go by different names. In some tribunals they may be known simply as Applicant's Statement of Case or Respondent's Statement of Case. In most civil courts although they are known collectively as "pleadings" or "statements of case" the words "pleadings" and "statement of case" are not part of the titles given to individual pleading documents and they instead have titles such as Claim Form and Particulars of ClaimDefence or Defence and Counterclaim, Reply to Defence, or Reply to Defence and Defence to CounterclaimReply to Defence to Counterclaim, Answer to Request for Further Information, or Part 18 Answer. e.g.-

Claim Form                                                              30 Jan 18 

Particulars of Claim                                                30 Jan 18

Defence                                                                    23 Feb 18

Orders

 
Date

 Orders made by a judge (e.g. about how the parties are to prepare for trial) and notices issued by the court/tribunal such as a Notice of Hearing - e.g.

Order                                                                        27 Feb 18

If Pre-Trial Checklists have been ordered to be filed, copies of both side's Pre-Trial Checklists should be stored here also.
 

Notices about Evidence

  
 Notices about evidence sent by one party to another are stored here. This includes Notices under CPR 32.19 notices challenging the authenticity of documents. e.g.-

Notice under CPR 32.19                                         30 May 18

NB This section is for notices about evidence sent by one party to the other; it is not for notices (e.g. about hearings) sent out by the court/tribunal which should be stored not in this section but in the Orders section.        

Claimant’s Expert Report

 
Date

Expert Report Mr Jenkins                                     14 Mar 18

Supplementary Expert Report Mr Jenkins          10 Apr 18

Mr Jenkins Replies to Questions                         23 Apr 18

Defendant’s Expert Report

 
Date

Expert Report Mr Philps                                        20 Mar 18

Mr Philps Replies to Questions                            20 Apr 18

Claimant’s Witness Statements

 
Name

Signed witness statements of the Claimant and each of the Claimant’s witnesses, which have been served. e.g.-

Witness Statement of John Smith - 1st                 02 May 18

Witness Statement of Paul Davis - 2nd                  14 May 18

Any witness statements (and exhibits) - or equivalent: statutory declaration, Land Registry Statement of Truth, etc - for other, previous litigation are not stored here. If they are relevant to the current proceedings they will be stored in the appropriate Documentary Evidence bundle.

Defendant’s Witness Statements

 
Name

Signed witness statements of the Defendant and each of the Defendant’s witnesses, which have been served. e.g.-

Witness Statement of Jeremy Jones 1st                03 May 18

Witness Statement of Pamela Jenkins 1st             10 May 18

Any witness statements (and exhibits) - or equivalent: statutory declaration, Land Registry Statement of Truth, etc - for other, previous litigation are not stored here. If they are relevant to the current proceedings they will be stored in the appropriate Documentary Evidence bundle.
 

Documentary Evidence


Date
 
15 Jun 1998     C    AB123456 Transfer                          

10 Apr 1999     D    Conveyance Lloyd to Briggs          

10 Apr 2001 15.22.16     C    Photo of  Orchard            

19 Aug 2002     C     Letter Mardon to Hillfield                

23 May 2003     D    Photo at 12.40.54 Orchard  

13 Jul 2007       D    Letter Williams to Jenkins                

25 Nov 2010     C      XY654321 Transfer                           

15 Aug 2012     C       Letter John Smith to Lucy Jones    

15 Aug 2012     D        Letter Smith to Jones                       

20 Sep 2012     C        Agreement Smith and Jones           

20 Sep 2012     D    Agreement Smith and Jones            

15 Aug 2013 10.20.19    C    Email Smith to Jones          

31 Mar 2018     C    AB123456 Register of Title              

31 Mar 2018     C    AB123456 Title Plan                         

3 1 Mar 2018    C    XY654321 Register of Title              

31 Mar 2018     C    XY654321 Title Plan                        

 

Exhibits

 
Name

 Exhibits referred to in the witness statements stored in the above two sections. (Separate copies of all the individual documents referred to in all the above witness statements will also be stored in Documentary Evidence section above. e.g.-

Exhibit JJS4 - Photos


Note: in a Tribunal case the parties may not be called Claimant and Defendant but may have other names such as Applicant and Respondent and the section titles would then be named "Applicant's Witness Statements" rather than "Claimant's Witness Statements" etc.



Trial Bundle 

The main bundle shown above should contain all documents which might, in theory, be needed in the Trial Bundle. In practice some documents - particularly some documents in the Documentary Evidence section - will not need to be included in the trial bundle and for these documents the Included would be set off in Bundledocs so that the document does not appear in the generated Trial Bundle PDF.

If it is the other side, rather than you, which has been directed to assemble a trial bundle, you will need to tell the other side what documents you require to be included in it and the above bundle can be used for that purpose. 

               

Interim Hearing Bundles

As explained above, a Trial Bundle - to be used at the trial at the end of the case - is created from the main bundle. 

Sometimes there are other shorter hearings before the trial - interim hearings - for which a hearing bundle may need to be produced. However generally an interim hearing bundle would be produced using standard PDF software rather than generated by Bundledocs. Bundledocs might be used as a convenient tool to generate a bookmarked unpaginated PDF from selected documents in the main bundle but the interim hearing bundle in its final form would not be generated by Bundledocs. Similarly when constructing an exhibit Bundledocs might be used as a convenient tool to generate a bookmarked unpaginated PDF from selected documents in the main bundle which are to go into the exhibit but the exhibit itself would not be generated by Bundledocs.

Folders on your main computer

You can give the folders on your computer names commencing with the name of the case - e.g. Smith v Jones.

Smith v Jones - PDF copies of my disclosure lists and disclosed documents

Within this folder you should create a sub-folder for each occasion on which you disclose documents to the other side. The subfolder will contain the disclosure list/disclosure statement/certificate, and copies of the documents disclosed.


Smith v Jones - copies of hearing bundles

Once a hearing bundle has been used at a hearing, a copy of the bundle PDF should always be saved in this folder. This is because if there is an appeal (or other query about the hearing) the documents included in the appeal bundle will include documents from the hearing bundle with their original hearing bundle page numbers and, whilst it might be possible to extract individual documents from the main bundle you need to know what page numbers they had in the particular hearing bundle as these may be referenced in, for example, the judgment. 

So, irrespective of which side produced the hearing bundle, a copy should always be stored after every hearing including the final trial.

If it was the other side which produced the hearing bundle and they only sent it to you in hardcopy form (not also as an eBundle) you could ask them if they can also send you a PDF copy which you can then save in this folder: they will probably be able to do this easily because most people create hearing bundles in PDF form and print a hardcopy from that. It is good practice to always keep the hardcopy anyway just in case there is any difference which you might not immediately notice (e.g. a page may have been inserted as an afterthought in the hardcopy without being in the PDF). 


Smith v Jones - My native electronic documents       

Once documents are loaded into the main bundle they become easily manageable and it is the copy in Bundledocs which is then used for most purposes in the litigation. However it is possible that at some stage - particularly at the Disclosure of Documents stage - you might be asked to produce an original document: the paper document if that is what the original was, or an electronic document if the original was e.g. a JPG file created on your phone when you took a picture, an email, a spreadsheet, etc. If the other side wishes to see an original electronic document they do not usually seek access to the actual device where the original electronic document is (e.g. your phone) - if they did special arrangements would need to be made (e.g. for the phone to be examined by a neutral expert directed by a judge). But usually what the other side are seeking is simply a native copy of the original electronic document. native copy of an electronic document is a copy which is exactly the same - same name, same format, same data - as the original, so if, for example, the original is a JPG file named 20150822_125643.jpg the native copy will be a JPG named 20150822_125643.jpg too. A native copy of a PDF named 2019reviewreport.pdf will also be named 2019reviewreport.pdf You need to ensure that you are able to quickly locate and provide native copies of electronic documents when necessary. Whatever else you do to preserve original documents, you should load copies of digital photos, videos and any relevant audio files to this folder on your main computer. 


Smith v Jones - Other side's electronic documents 

If the other side send you a native copy of one of their electronic documents you can store it here. Normally they will also send you a PDF copy which you will be storing in Documentary Evidence section of the main bundle (or if they don't send you a PDF copy you will need to create a PDF copy from the native copy).
               

Organising Your Email Folders

Virtually all correspondence you send or receive in the course of litigation will be automatically stored in your email system. This even includes much correspondence received by post because some of that you will be emailing to me and asking me to advise you. Likewise you will be emailing to me PDF copies of any signed letters you send out by post which you have asked me to draft. Because searchable email folders are so convenient, people sometimes, even if they have no other reason to send by email, scan things in as PDFs and email them to themselves so that they can store them in a convenient email folder. For example if you receive an invoice for a disbursement by post, you could scan it in, email it to yourself, and store it in the CostsDisbursementsEvidence folder (as well as keeping the paper original).  

I would suggest that you have a high-level folder for emails relating to the case (named - e.g. Smith v Jones) to keep them separate from other emails, such as your personal emails, and that below that high-level folder you have at least the following sub-folders.    


 Service 

 Any emails from me advising how to validly file and serve formal documents. Also any correspondence sent by you or received by you which notifies an address for service or a change of address for service of formal documents (including any correspondence notifying a change of solicitor representing the other party). Any notification by a court of a change of address of the court or court centre dealing with the case.

 ServiceEvidence

  Evidence of how and when you served particular documents on parties. This includes both documents provided to you by others - such as a certificate of posting provided by the Post Office - and Certificates of Service  which you complete and sign. Usually these never need to be referred to but occasionally they can be important. For example, if a court grants an injunction then the court order will normally need to be personally served on the person to whom the court order applies and a Certificate of Service completed. If, at some time in the future, the person disobeys the court order then the Certificate of Service will be needed for a committal application, but in 99% of cases court orders are obeyed (as nobody wants to go to prison) so that the Certificate of Service is not usually needed.
 
 Disclosure  Emails by which you provide copies of documents to the other side during the disclosure process and emails received from the other side.

 Settlement

 Correspondence between parties which aims to achieve a settlement. 
 

 CostsStatements 

 Costs budgets, estimates of costs, and statements of costs filed by either party as the case proceeds. Also Disclosure Reports (giving estimate of costs of disclosure of documents).

 CostsDisbursementsEvidence

 Supporting evidence of disbursements in the case. 

This may include invoices from barristers, mediators and from any commercial document scanning or printing service you use, and for court/tribunal fees. Also any invoices associated with obtaining evidence – e.g. charges for copies of historical aerial photographs. Invoices can include expenditure before proceedings commenced (e.g. pre-action advice from a barrister or solicitor).

 CostsOther

 Most people, in order to increase the likelihood of the trial judge carrying out a (fast) summary assessment of costs at the end of the trial will want to put forward a Statement of Costs for Summary Assessment at the trial which just includes disbursements (on the basis that if it includes small items as well the judge may be more inclined to order the long and costly process of Detailed Assessment for which a specialist Costs Lawyer would need to be engaged). However if, for whatever reason, Detailed Assessment is ordered normally information about all expenditure (not just Disbusements) is provided to the Costs Lawyer and to cater for this possibility all emails relevant to expenditure, however small, can be stored here. 
 
  



Paper files you should keep

Original signed formal litigation documents

The original signed copies of formal court/tribunal documents which have been filed/served (e.g. pleadings and witness statements) should be kept in a cardboard file in case the court/tribunal should require them to be produced.

Disclosure Documentation in two ring binders



Disclaimer

This information page is designed to be used only by clients of John Antell who have entered into an agreement for the provision of legal services. The information in it is necessarily of a general nature and is intended to be used only in conjunction with specific advice to the individual client about the individual case. This information page should not be used by, or relied on, by anyone else.

The information on this page about specific computer techniques is provided for information purposes only. Every reasonable effort has been made to ensure that the information is accurate and up to date at the time it was written but no responsibility for its accuracy, or for any consequences of relying on it, is assumed by me. You should satisfy yourself, before using any of the techniques, software or services described, that the techniques are appropriate for your purposes and that the software or service is reliable.


This page was lasted updated in May 2020 Disclaimer