The Disputes Tribunal offers a cost-effective and efficient way to resolve smaller disputes. It can hear claims worth up to $30,000 (with a higher limit of $60,000 if both parties agree. The Tribunal operates more informally than the ordinary court.
Don’t be fooled, though. We are still talking about a legal process. Understanding how to prepare well can make all the difference.
Background of the Disputes Tribunal:
The Disputes Tribunal is designed to be accessible, streamlined and inexpensive. It operates without the involvement of solicitors and barristers. It also has relaxed rules around things like evidence and legal rules.
Despite that, cases before the Tribunal are still legal proceedings. The orders its referees make are binding. Taking the process seriously and preparing thoroughly is essential for a successful outcome.
Some advice for preparing well
Ensure you follow all steps outlined by the court staff and meet all deadlines for filing documents.
Gather all relevant documents which support your case. This might include copies of contracts, invoices, receipts, and correspondence. Make copies of them and organise them in logical order.
Prepare a written submission that outline your argument and the facts supporting your claim. Try to explain the legal basis of your claim. Ensure that your submissions are concise and well-structured and always on point.
If witnesses are involved, ensure they understand the importance of their testimony. It’s on you to organise their attendance in the first instance. If they won’t come of their own free will, the Tribunal can order their appearance.
Practice presenting your case confidently. The referee may well ask you questions while you are presenting. Be prepared to answer awkward questions without being evasive.
Engaging a lawyer for assistance
Lawyers are not permitted to represent you during the hearing. Nevertheless, some people have always used lawyers to review and edit their written submissions. This can be invaluable because lawyers understand how to refine arguments and boil them down to their essential points. It cannot be overstated enough just how important this can be.
Your lawyer should also insert relevant legal references into your submissions. These should be written in plain English and expressed so that you can understand and explain them. This can significantly enhance your ability to present your case clearly and persuasively.
The cost of engaging a lawyer to help with your Disputes Tribunal case will typically range from $800 to $1,500. One thing you do need to be aware of is that these costs cannot be claimed back, even if you win. And, of course, there’s no way to guarantee victory no matter how well your case is presented.
Nevertheless, given the stakes involved in cases concerning tens of thousands of dollars, some people have always found it a worthwhile investment.