An important bit of preparation for the hearing is getting detailed comments on the other side’s statements from your client. There are two reasons for this.
First, you may want to get your client (or other witnesses) to give some additional evidence commenting on the other side’s statements. You need to know before the hearing what they have to say, so that you can ask the right questions to give them a chance to say it.
Second – and perhaps more importantly – you need this information for the purposes of your own cross-examination. If the dismissing manager says something that your client says can’t be true, you need to know why – so that you can put that to the dismissing manager when you are cross-examining her.
So as soon as you exchange witness statements, send the employer’s statements to the claimant and ask for detailed comments on them. For everything they say, you want to know ‘Do we agree with this? If not, what do we say?’ It’s important to do this promptly, because you will often need further explanation of some of the comments: people aren’t always very good at realising quite how specalised their knowledge about their own workplace is. Depending on your client, it may be better to do this in a face-to-face meeting. Have the person who is going to present the case to the tribunal at the meeting if at all possible.
Getting familiar with the hearing bundle is one of the most important things you have to do when preparing to represent a client (or yourself) in the employment tribunal.
To do this efficiently, you need to have a range of different reading speeds. Some (often most) of the papers in the bundle will be completely irrelevant to anything you have to argue about, and you can skip over them very fast. Often there will be a few pages that are absolutely key – and by the end of the case, you will have pored over them for hours, decorating them with highlighters and cross-referencing them to other documents. Other pages will have a significant line or two, but mostly not be very interesting.
What this means is that you need to read some documents carefully; skim-read others; and – at any rate on your first pass through the bundle – just note that others are there without reading them at all.
A related point is that you need different reading speeds for different stages of preparation. If the case is new to you, you will probably want to start with the ET1 and the ET3 to find out what the case is all about; then read the witness statements for a bit more detail; and then go through the bundle. But this first read through of everything will probably be quite fast: the pleadings and statements are important, and you are going to have to get to know them well before the end: but at this stage, you just don’t know what the case is about, so you can’t tell which bits to focus on. So don’t read everything as if your life depended on it: just get the big picture. You can fill in the detail later.