The Court Process Explained – Part 1

The litigation process can often seem confusing for anyone who has little or no experience of civil disputes. Greg Porter, dispute resolution specialist at our Northwich office, takes you through the process step-by-step.


Step 1: Pre-Action

Step 2: Issue of Court Proceedings

Step 3: Acknowledgement of Service and Defence

Step 4: Allocation

Step 5: Disclosure

Step 6: Witness Statements

Step 7: Expert Evidence

Step 8: Trial


Please note that this article is intended as a basic overview of the civil court process only. The Court process and the underlying law being applied to a particular case is complex and you should always seek legal advice from a professional before entering into legal proceedings. This article is not a substitute for such legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Butcher & Barlow LLP do not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage caused by reliance upon this article.

Step 1 – Pre-Action

Contrary to popular belief, the first stage in resolving a dispute is not to immediately issue Court proceedings. Prior to doing so there is an obligation upon the parties to comply with the relevant Pre-Action Protocol which is applicable to the type of case. The Pre-Action Protocol for various types of claim can be found at

The precise requirements of the Protocols vary depending upon the type of dispute. However, generally speaking, it is necessary for the Claimant (the person bringing the claim) to write to the Defendant (the person responding to/Defending the claim) setting out the facts of the dispute, what is being claimed and the reasons for this. This is called the Letter of Claim. The Claimant must also give the Defendant a reasonable period of time to investigate the matter. This period of time will vary depending upon the complexity of the issues in dispute and the urgency of the matter. A reasonable period could be as short as 7 days or as long as 4 months depending upon the subject matter.

The Defendant should acknowledge receipt of the Claimant’s Letter of Claim and, once their investigations have been completed, write to the Claimant confirming whether the claim is admitted or denied. It may be that some elements of the claim are admitted but others denied, in which case the Defendant should set out their position clearly.

It is often possible to resolve a dispute at this stage without Court proceedings being issued. It is very important that both parties comply with their obligations under the Pre-Action Protocol. If they fail to do so and Court proceedings are subsequently issued, the Court has the power to order the party at fault to pay the other party’s legal costs, irrespective of the final result.

Step 2 – Issue of Court Proceedings

If it has not been possible to resolve the dispute at the Pre-Action stage, the parties may then issue Court Proceedings. In order to do so the Claimant  must complete the Claim Form (usually Form N1) and Particulars of Claim and send the same to the Court with the appropriate Court fee.

The Claim Form and Particulars of Claim provide a summary of the facts of the dispute and set out the Claimant’s case. These documents form the basis of the Claimant’s case and the Court is likely to limit the Claimant’s case to that set out in the Particulars of Claim. It is, therefore, vital that these documents are properly drafted so as to bring the correct case against the correct party. Some claims, such as Personal Injury and Clinical Negligence, also require medical evidence and a schedule of the Claimant’s losses to be provided with the Particulars of Claim.

We would therefore recommend that professional legal advice is sought well before Court proceedings are issued.

In the next article, Greg will explain steps 3-5:


Step 3: Acknowledgement of Service and Defence

Step 4: Allocation

Step 5: Disclosure



Greg can be contacted at our Northwich office on 01606 47523 or email

Greg Porter