The fact that you are on a website that explains the process of going to Court, probably indicates that you're already in dispute with a business or individual and are looking to take things further, possibly via the Small Claims system.

Pre-Action Protocols
Be aware that the Small Claims Court procedures require that you take steps to settle the dispute before going to Court. The justice.gov.uk website suggests various methods of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) or Pre-action protocols as they are sometimes known, e.g. Mediation, Arbitration, using an Ombudsman etc. However my opinion is that these forms of ADR are pie in the sky and completely impractical for resolving a Small Claims dispute(*). Having said that, I certainly agree that you should make a determined effort to resolve the matter before going to Court. If the Judge believes that you went to Court too early, or without giving the defendant sufficient time to resolve the issue, it will count heavily against you in your Court Hearing and will probably result in you receiving a reduced settlement or worse, your case could be thrown out altogether.

My recommended Pre-action Protocol is simple enough: Write a (final) letter to the defendant.
In the letter, explain the position and state clearly and politely what you require from him (i.e. in terms of payment or actions) and by when. Tell the defendant that you want to settle the matter amicably between you, but state that if the issue is not resolved within 2-4 weeks (give an exact date) you will take County Court action against him. Be sincere in your attempts to settle the matter prior to Court, keep in mind that taking someone to Court can take months, so if you can make a deal to get 80% of what's owed to you now, that may well be preferable to waiting months or maybe years to receive the full 100% of what is owed to you via the Courts system. Be flexible – leave the door open for the defendant to make you a final offer to settle the matter.

I'd advise a polite but firm tone in the letter; the Judge will want to see the letter to ensure that you took reasonable steps to avoid Court action, if you allow the letter to become a rant, again, it will count against you and undermine your credibility if/when you get to a Hearing.


MY CASE: I posted my politely worded letter through the defendant's letterbox by hand. One hour later I received a shirty text message by way of response, so I started my legal action the next day.


* Having given my views on ADR and Mediation above; Note that as a later part of the Court processing, you will be required to fill in a Directions Questionnaire, and you'll be asked if you'd be willing to participate in a mediation service organised by the court (i.e. with the defendant), say Yes to this when you fill in the Questionnaire, I believe that mediation at this later stage can be effective.