Civil litigation: 10 ways to make sure that your trial bundles are bundles of joy!

Chris Payne Chris Payne 18th November 2022

The first thing a judge will see of your case is the bundle and there exists no quicker way to make a judge cross than to present them with a poorly prepared trial bundle: too long, full of irrelevant documents which are never referred to or incorrectly paginated. Our 10 tips below will help you to ensure that your bundles are ones of joy and not despair!

  1. Make sure the bundle is compliant with the rules – check CPR PD32 and Part 39 and any relevant practice guide for the court you are in. Happily these parts are not particularly long - the downside of this, of course, is that there is really no excuse for producing a bundle which is not compliant. Take a careful note of the bundle size – there should not be any more than 500 pages per lever arch; any bundle over 100 pages should include dividers, and all bundles must be paginated.
  2. Bundles are surprisingly time consuming to put together. It might be worth considering putting together a core bundle of documents from the outset and just adding to it over time. You can do this by putting the electronic documents into a separate ‘bundle’ file on your computer so you have everything you’re likely to need already in one place. 
  3. If the other side have not, cannot or will not produce the bundle for a hearing, consider doing it yourself. The judge might be unimpressed by whoever was supposed to do it and didn’t bother, but they will be equally unimpressed if you were aware that the bundle was not being produced as it should have been and chose to do nothing about it. 
  4. Don’t imagine that you need to include everything – you don’t! Not all orders need to be included and nor do obsolete original pleadings which have been superseded, ’procedural’ witness statements (for example those confirming service of documents, where service is no longer in issue) or irrelevant correspondence...
  5. ...But don’t put a blanket ban on duplicate documents. If a witness statements references a particular document, then you may want to “keep it whole” by keeping the documents exhibited to the statement whilst also putting the document into the disclosure section of the bundle.
  6. Whilst obsolete pleadings and ‘procedural’ witness statements should generally be avoided consider, possibly with the assistance of counsel, whether they should be kept in. Do they give rise to any cross-examination points or help the rest of the case ‘make sense’?
  7. Be very, very, very careful about without prejudice documents. Incorrectly including a W/P offer which is seen by the judge may well lead to an adjournment of the hearing with all of the delay and costs that will result to your client. Be especially careful about letters which look at first glance like open letters but which might include a short W/P paragraph at the end or emails which do not appear to be privileged but are actually part of a long chain where the initial email is marked ‘Without Prejudice’! If there have been offers or privileged ‘save as to costs’ discussions consider making a separate bundle which could be handed up after judgment to enable the judge to determine any issues surrounding costs.
  8. Make it easy for the judge to follow your case. Make sure you have got an agreed chronology, case summary and list of issues at the front of the bundle. In technical cases, consider adding a glossary. In cases involving multiple parties or a large number of witnesses, consider putting in a ‘cast list’ setting out the role each person will be playing in the trial.
  9. Get your bundles in on time – normally 3-7 days before the hearing. Remember, you might need to produce the bundle earlier particularly if Counsel has to file a skeleton 3 days beforehand and needs to refer to pages of the bundle in that skeleton. Some courts threaten to take cases out of the list if the bundle isn’t filed in time so beware!
  10. Don’t be afraid of exercising your own judgment logically. Will it be helpful to have some documents in a separate bundle? The court is likely to be assisted by voluminous documents such as bank statements or the appendices to an expert’s report contained in a separate bundle which will stop them ‘clogging up’ mort pertinent documents. Likewise, if there are unagreed documents they might be better suited to a separate bundle.

Good luck!