WHEN LESS IS MORE: FRANCIS XAVIER SC ON HOW MUCH TO INCLUDE IN A PLEADING
Everybody has a different approach to preparing pleadings—but there are common best practices, says Mr Francis Xavier SC.
BY ASHUTOSH RAVIKRISHNAN
When drafting pleadings lawyers might be tempted to include more than enough facts “just to be safe”—does that help or hinder? Mr Francis Xavier SC is of the “hinder” camp. He says, “When you commit beyond the necessary, you are in fact shackling the future development of your case theory.” He continues, with emphasis, that you should only plead what is required to make your case, and then stop.
It behoves us to invest the required amount of time, thought and analysis that is demanded to produce a pleading that is well-crafted, displays mastery of both the factual and legal terrain and discharges one’s duty of candour/forthrightness to the court.
These are lessons the veteran from Rajah & Tann has learnt over his years in practice. What about the pleadings themselves? “In our adversarial system, pleadings are the bedrock of one’s case,” he shares, adding that given how crucial they are, it’s important that they are well-drafted. To him, that means presenting pleadings that:
· are crisp and simple, with active and direct sentence forms
· have a clear and coherent overall form and structure. This means:
o a cogent feel and flow over the entire document, with points chronologically arranged
o demarcating each cause of action (or the defence to such a cause of action)
· deal comprehensively with each cause of action
· recite the facts objectively, accurately and truthfully
· reflect a clear understanding of the most current state of the law
At the start of this month, LawNet launched a database of pleadings selected by sitting judges. Mr Xavier welcomes this development, saying that it will benefit practitioners of all levels of seniority. “It would effectively provide younger practitioners with knowledge of what is necessary to be delved into and refined, both from the perspective of the factual enquiries to be undertaken and the legal requirements to be met.”
“Even experienced practitioners will gain tremendously as it will be a helpful reminder of what is expected. To some extent, it would also flag recent developments in law.”
Access to a database like the one on LawNet would also help lawyers save time, an oft-scarce commodity in practice. “You’d waste less time poring over multiple pleadings precedent resource platforms and then having to tailor those to Singapore law.”
Pleadings is a premium add-on service available to Singapore subscribers of LawNet. It comprises selected pleadings from actual cases reported in the Singapore Law Reports from 2014. All featured pleadings are chosen by sitting judges and selection committee for their language, concision and organisation from writ actions, admiralty suits and appeals to the Court of Appeal (from writ actions). Sealed cases, criminal, family and originating summonses (including arbitration) cases are excluded. Here’s how to sign up.