Practice Guidance has been issued by the Lead Judge in Manchester to encourage the legal profession to resolve First Directions Appointments [FDAs] by way of a Consent Order setting out the court directions required for the filing and serving of further documentation and evidence, such as Replies to Questionnaires and Expert Reports, together with a timetable. This practice will apply to all FDAs after 1 April 2020. The draft Consent Order must be filed at least 14 days prior to the hearing.
Practitioners are also being encouraged to consider private FDR Hearings. The private FDR Hearing will involve an independent third party [such as an independent Barrister] to consider the evidence and hear representations, and then give an indication as to how they would decide the case, on the basis that the FDR hearing is a final hearing. The FDR Hearings in such circumstances will take place through electronic means, such as by way of telephone conferences or video conferences. The FDR Hearing is always designed to facilitate an agreement between the parties.
The purpose of the directive is to ensure that there is a reduction in people attending court and to reduce the overall risk of infection.