Understand the Claim
Whether you are the person who filed the case (the “plaintiff”) or the defendant, you should understand what the claim is about.
Then ask yourself the following questions:
- What evidence do I need to prove (or disprove) the claim? How can I find the documents or witnesses?
- Has the opposing side admitted to the claim? For example, has the other side made a partial payment on a debt owed to you?
- Does the claim tell all the key elements of the story?
Find copies of contracts and any other written communications between you and the other side
It goes without saying – if you are suing or defending on a contract, you must read it!
If you go in with a full understanding of the full contract terms, you would be well prepared for any questions the Registrar may ask of you.
The judge will expect both parties to be familiar with the contract. There are certain contractual terms that you must rely on. For example, if you are relying on that fact that the opposing party did not fulfil the contract, you should point out which clause you are relying on.
If you wish to show that the contract is not valid, you must explain why.
You should also rely on any letters or emails between the two of you. How do the letters or emails prove your case?
Analyze the strengths and weaknesses of your case
You must be very objective and look at the evidence without any bias.
If you are the plaintiff, do you have the evidence to persuade the judge? What can you do to address the weaknesses? Write down each item you must prove and put how you will prove it next to each item.
If you are the defendant, understand what the plaintiff must prove. Write down the weaknesses that you can use to disprove the other side’s case.
Prepare your documents and evidence for trial
You should know what are the crucial documents that you need to bring, prepare them for trial. Your documents should be organised properly, and preferably in a chronological manner.
Prepare copies for yourself, the other side, and the judge. Keep the originals in a separate folder.
Highlight the important points that you wish to make for each document.
Practice your presentation
Once you are well prepared, you should have no problem with your presentation. Your presentation should be clear, concise and logical. Avoid attacking the other side with snide remarks. You are there to win a legal case, and logic works better than emotive pleas.
If you are the plaintiff
You will speak first. You will need to tell the judge your story.
Tell the judge what your claim is, and how you intend to prove your claim. Then, so straight to proving it by referring to documents. Do not be long winded.
If you are the defendant
You will speak second. Do not dispute every little issue, focus on the most important points. You should have prepared yourself by looking at what the other side had to prove. That will help you determine which are the crucial and important points need disproving.