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Early Disclosure

“Disclosure” refers to a stage in litigation when each party is required to disclose the documents that are relevant to the issues in dispute. Each party is required to disclose any document they have in their possession, even if it has an adverse effect on their case. Disclosure is normally ordered at the first Case Management Conference (“CMC”). 

The parties may exchange documents at an early stage, whether informally, under the pre-action protocol or under the Practice Direction – Pre-Action Conduct.  This gives the benefit of each party to put their cards on the table at an early stage.

Pre-action protocols are intended to encourage the exchange of early information. Also, Civil Procedure Rule 31.16 enables an applicant to apply for forced disclosure even before a claim has been issued.

There are many benefits to both parties for early disclosure, this includes allowing both sides to see the strengths and weaknesses of the other side’s claim and this will encourage offers of settlement rather than a lengthy and costly court case.

The overriding objective of the Civil Procedure Rules is to enable the court to deal with cases justly and at proportionate cost. Early disclosure can help with this because it will help the parties see the merits of the claim and in some cases looking at the other side’s case, they may decide it will be too costly and disproportionate to take this matter all the way through the court proceedings and so try a form of Alternative Dispute Resolution.

Many potential clients do not like to disclose all of their documents to their solicitor in the first instance in fear it may rack up costs before the claim has even started.  However, doing so is greatly advised as it will help your solicitor understand all of the facts of the claim and enable them to give you clear and concise advice which in the long run will save both time and money.

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These notes have been prepared for the purpose of an article only. They should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice.  

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