Tired of court delays? Try these smart strategies

Tired of court delays? Try these smart strategies

Sydney barrister Louise Mathias suggests a few ways to help keep your cases moving forward 



We all are aware of the long delays in the Federal Circuit Court and the Family Court. As a practitioner, many are beyond your control. However, there are strategies you can take to ensure that you don’t contribute to further delays in client matters.

As a practitioner, you are bound by ethical duties to the court and your clients for the administration of justice. If these duties conflict your duty to the court is paramount, which includes:

• exercising independent judgment (you are not the client’s mouthpiece)
• focusing on the real issues in dispute and having a broader view than just this one specific case
• advancing the client’s case efficiently
• be frank and open with the court
• engaging in forensic judgment of the case
• not bringing unnecessary applications or firing up you client to vigorously litigate every issue.

A failure to apply the above will result in unnecessary delays. Your job is to problem solve and assist the court to progress the matters as efficiently as possible.

How to avoid delays:


Try to adjourn matters as soon as possible before a conciliation conference or a final hearing. Late adjournment requests impact the court and cause further delays, as the court may not be able to reallocate the available time to another law matter.


Advocacy starts when the documents are filed in court, not when you begin your opening statement – and are the first thing the judges see. Therefore, it is important to draft them effectively and ensure you use forensic judgment when drafting affidavits and compiling annexures. Remember:

• advocate the real issues of the case concisely 
• engage the judge, don’t fight against him/her – the judge is the one you need to persuade, not your opponent
• documents need to be helpful and persuasive to your client’s case; only include the relevant issues, rather than everything from a multi-year relationship.

Initiating application and response

Clearly defining the orders you are seeking will help the court to identify the scope of the dispute. You can also speed up the process by:

• drafting documents as if the Evidence Act applies
• distinguishing documents prepared for interim and final hearings
• avoiding filing applications or responses close to pre-existing court events whenever possible.

Avoid using the following terms as they are not helpful to the court:

• “That the court make such order as it considers just and equitable.” This doesn’t assist the court; it isn’t in a position to try and guess the parties’ claims.
• “Such order as the court deems fit.” The court has the power to make orders outside of those requested by parties, so this order is unnecessary.
These strategies will go a long way to avoiding unnecessarily delaying your client’s case and causing other delays in the court system.



About the author

Louise Mathias is a barrister at Elizabeth Street Chambers. Sign up for her blog for insights on family law, medical negligence, victims of institutional abuse and mediation.