What is the Civil Procedure Rules?

The Civil Procedure Rules are the rules governing the [process of civil claims and court action.  These rules are issued by the Ministry of Justice and designed to ensure legal proceedings are fair and efficient.

The Practice Direction on Pre-Action Conduct and Protocols is particularly relevant for those considering legal action. They "explain the conduct and set out the steps the court would normally expect parties to take before commencing proceedings for particular types of civil claims."

The pre-action protocols urge parties considering making a claim to try mediation (or some other form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) to resolved the dispute out-of-court.

Further, courts are able to impose financial penalties on parties in court who have unreasonably rejected an invitation to mediation.

The steps below summarise the process and show when and how mediation might play a part.

Steps towards legal proceedings


The Pre-Action Protocol sets out "the steps the court would normally expect parties to take before commencing proceedings". These might be summarised as below

Letter before action

The claimant writes to the other party (defendant) to explain the basis of their claim and the resolution they are seeking. 

This is referred to as a letter before claim, letter before action or pre-action protocol letter.  Templates are available online (e.g. Citizens Advice Bureau and often offer mediation as a way to settle out-of-court.

Defendant's response

The claimant allows time for the defendant to respond (perhaps 14 days, depending on the complexity of the issue).

At t his stage the defendant may accept the claim and offer a settlement, reject the claim stating their reasons or agree to participate in mediation to find a resolution.

Mediation (or ADR)

If the dispute remains unresolved, the CPR urges parties to consider mediation or alternative dispute resolution (ADR):  

"If proceedings are issued, the parties may be required by the court to provide evidence that ADR has been considered" (CPR, Pre-Action Protocol, Paragraph 11)

Mediation can be used at anytime to avoid litigation. 

Litigation "last resort"

If the above steps are unsuccessful you might decide to proceed to litigation. 

The CPR guidance states clearly that "litigation should be a last resort".

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