When about to start or defend a Court case there are only three questions you need answered:

  • How much will it cost?
  • How long will it take?
  • Will I win?

This Blog provides answers in fewer than 750 words.

How much will it cost?

A lot!

Always be wary of entering a quarrel.  But being in, make sure that those who oppose you beware of you!

The amount of money one side can recover from another is restricted but this does not mean it is cost-free.  This link leads to advice about the Court fees involved.  Beyond that very little is allowed by way of costs except!…..if:

  • you or your opponent are found to have behaved unreasonably for example by harassing the other side or witnesses by engaging in vexatious correspondence or tactics which do not lead to the resolution of the case; and/or,
  • the case is based on a contract which allows for costs to be ordered – check the terms of the contract very carefully first!

The biggest cost will be your time.  This is the time you have to give to preparation, engaging with a dysfunctional and massively under-resourced court system, writing to the other side and dealing with the Judge at the final hearing.

The courts expect people using the courts to advance the resolution of their cases and the way they like to see that done is by using Alternative Dispute Resolution or ADR.  There is an explanation of ADR here.

Of course costs orders for unreasonable behaviour can be used to your advantage and may be made in your favour if you can show your opponent behaves in a bad way or if he or she refuses to engage in ADR as the Courts are now very keen to see most cases going through ADR.  Such an order may enable you to be paid some money for your time, if you win.

How long will it take?

A long time.

This is another reason for choosing the ADR route as it is quicker.  It may not lead to a full recovery but ADR can give you a result far quicker than the Courts.

According to the Ministry of Justice Civil Justice Statistics published on 3 December 2020 the time taken from issue to final hearing in the Small Claims Track in the 2020 third quarter was a year.  Bear in mind that in July-September 2020 the Courts had 33% fewer small claims cases to hear than in the same quarter of 2019.  This reduction was due to the Pandemic.  Unfortunately the Backlog is rising so before Spring 2021 you should expect the wait before your hearing to be longer than a year.

Because of the Backlog of cases caused by successive Lockdowns due to the Pandemic the delay is now much worse. The dysfunctional and under-resourced court system can often cause final hearings to be adjourned at short, or no notice!, leading to another wait of many months for another hearing.

Entering the Courts is a bit like a game of Snakes and Ladders these days.

Will I win?

Nothing is certain and no case is perfect.  Anyone who believes they have a sure-fire winner of a case is bound to lose.

Preparation is everything.

Go back to the beginning of you legal relationship with the person you wish to claim against.  First read that contract, read the emails between you and then read the invoices.  Start at the beginning; figure out who said what they were going to do.  Find out if that was said verbally or in emails.  Then and ONLY then, can you begin to work out what wasn’t done or done badly and begin to work out who is in the right(-ish) and who is in the wrong(-ish).

Only after completing that exercise can you begin to draft the explanation of your claim, or defence.

Don’t forget the basics from the start, helpfully flagged for you here!

Good luck!


Tony Guise

Tony N. Guise | Director DisputesEfiling.com Limited

Tony Guise is the Director of DisputesEfiling.com the specialist provider of ADR management platforms.  He is a Past President of the London Solicitors Litigation Association and former member of the Civil Justice Committee of the Law Society of England and Wales.


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