Guest Post: Len’s Pre Trial Extravaganza

Early on in the summer Len and I were given the opportunity to attend a pre-trial for a litigation file we were working on. Unfortunately I was too busy and only Len got to go, so I made him promise to write a guest post for the blog describing his experience. So without further ado, here is Len’s post on his amazing pre-trial experience:

Guest Blogger: Len Loewith

Blogging! What a great chance to write down my feelings. It’s like that diary I never kept, but open to everyone!

In all seriousness, I came into this summer at CBB wanting to get as much hands on litigation experience as possible. I have always had a strong interest in advocacy, and figured diving right into it would be the only way to determine if this is something I want to pursue as a career.

Fortunately for me, the team here at CBB is very open to giving summer students hands-on experience, and the litigation group has some of the best opportunities available. On my second day of work I went along to the Commercial List (a specialized commercial/insolvency court) and was in chambers with a well-known insolvency judge. The next week I travelled to St. Catherine’s to appear on a matter in traffic court (I know, I know, it’s just traffic court, but I still got to speak to the judge – it all counts – and also, I’m 1-0!). I’ve also tagged along for discoveries and shadowed a mediator on a full day mediation, to name a few of the experiences I’ve had this summer. 

My favourite experience came as a result of some basic case law research Max and I had been asked to do for an employment/business law litigation file. The matter was proceeding to a pre trial (essentially a mediation that takes place in front of a judge – nothing actually binding, but they try to work out the conflict and avoid the very high legal fees resulting from a two-week trial if no resolution is reached.) This takes place at the courthouse and is technically in chambers, although the “chambers” for this purpose is a boardroom that seats 10 people.

Stock legal image / the first result of a Google search for “Pre-Trial”

The judge we were in front of is infamous in litigation circles – well known for doing whatever it takes to reach a settlement: no food breaks, no bathroom breaks, keep you there until 3AM if necessary. I sat at the back of the room to observe, but was immediately called out by the judge. “Mr. Loewith, do you want to learn anything today?” Of course I did. “Then sit at the damn table.” With that, we were off and running.

The judge fired a few questions at different parties in the proceeding, trying to get a grasp of what the exact issue was. The whole ordeal degenerated into a yelling match between family members that, at times, became very personal. Throughout, the judge just sat back, shushing the lawyers when they tried to intervene, and allowing the families to air our their grievances. As things cooled off, the judge simply passed around a blank piece of paper for everyone to take. When I tried to avoid taking one, I was again scolded into participating. When she said “Everyone write down a number that they think would be a fair settlement,” I jumped. Write down a number? I don’t even understand employment law yet, let alone costs, damages, etc. How would I ever come up with an accurate number? And how seriously was she taking these suggestions. Luckily, I think I was somewhat in the ballpark on the number.

The day continued with the parties haggling about numbers, the judge telling them how stupid it would be to go to trial, etc. By 6:30 PM, we had reached a settlement. Not too bad actually, only 8.5 hours and we were out of there. First, for the much needed bathroom break. Then food.

Pre trials are an important step in litigation proceedings. Clients really can save a significant sum of money by avoiding trial. Not all are as crazy as the one I got to be a part of (or so I’m told). Either way, it was a good real world experience that I won’t be forgetting for a while.

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