When a claim in a civil court is disputed, the court will give instructions to the parties on how they are to prepare the case. The instructions are known as "directions".
The directions are intended to make sure that everything to do with the case is known to the court and to both parties before there is a full court hearing. There are several purposes behind this. One is so that it becomes clear which parts of the case are disputed and which are not – only the disputed parts will need a judge’s decision. Another is so that the court can make the right arrangements for the hearing, including allowing enough time for it and selecting the right level of judge. A third – just as important – is so that the parties themselves get a full understanding of each other’s case.
This third purpose enables the parties to concentrate their preparation on the disputed issues. This will help the judge to reach a decision on them. It also makes it easier for the parties to "settle" the case – to come to a sensible agreement which makes a hearing unnecessary. The parties have legal duties both to help the court and to try to reach agreement.
The directions given by the court will usually be based on "Standard Directions". On these pages, the paragraphs included in those, together with other paragraphs which are often used, are set out with explanations. They will help you to understand what you are required to do to comply with the directions and prepare your case. Not all the paragraphs explained here will be used in every case.
The directions given in your case may well differ in some respects from what you read here. The judge giving them will have adjusted them to fit the particular case. The notes here should still help you to understand them.
Although the directions will most frequently have been given by a judge on reading the papers which have been filed, sometimes they will be given at a hearing. In that case, you must observe any explanations which the judge gave if they differ from what you find here.
At any time, you can apply for further directions to be given. In particular, if the timetable set by directions is drifting, applying promptly for directions to get things back on course is a good way of letting the judge know of your concerns.
Here, for ease of reference, the paragraphs have been divided into various categories. Click each category name to see the paragraphs and explanations.