A case management conference (CMC) is a meeting between the parties in a lawsuit to discuss the case and try to settle it without going to trial. A judge presides over this meeting, which usually includes the plaintiff, the defendant, attorneys, and any witnesses.

Paralegals play an important role in this process by assisting with meeting preparation and gathering documents required by both parties. This piece will define case management conferences, walk you through how they work, and explain how all participants fit into the picture.

A Case Management Conference Explained

A case management conference is a court meeting held to discuss the progress of a case, set deadlines, and make any necessary changes to the case’s scheduling. This type of hearing is most commonly used in civil procedure and litigation, such as family law litigation cases, but it can also be used in criminal cases. 

The attorneys for both sides and the judge assigned to the case usually attend the conference, and witnesses or other interested parties may be present in some cases. The first case management conference is typically held three months after the initial paperwork is filed.

The initial case management conference aims to ensure that the case proceeds in a timely and efficient manner. This involves confirming that all evidence has been gathered and that any witnesses are ready to testify. It should be noted that out-of-court statements are not admissible as evidence at the CMC.

If any issues need to be addressed, the conference provides an opportunity to discuss and resolve them. The judge typically sets deadlines for discovery, motion practice, and other pretrial matters during the hearing.

In short, a case management conference is an important step in ensuring that a case moves through the court system smoothly and efficiently.

What Is a Case Management Statement?

A case management statement is a document filed by an attorney in a lawsuit that describes the status of the case and how it should be handled. This strategy includes deadlines for various tasks like filing motions and exchanging discovery (the California Civil Discovery Practice published by Continuing Education of the Bar is a good resource on the discovery process).

This document’s purpose is to provide information to the court so that it can make informed decisions about the case. These statements are typically filed before a case management conference hearing, a meeting held between the attorneys and/or parties in a lawsuit to discuss the status of the case.

The duties of a litigation paralegal are significant. They may include assisting with the preparation of case management statements by collecting relevant materials, coordinating the availability of witnesses, and other tasks that a paralegal can perform without the assistance of an attorney

Case management statements can assist the court in understanding the status of a case and making decisions about how to proceed. At the same time, attorneys can use them to communicate about the case and develop a strategy on how it should proceed.

What Happens at a Case Management Conference?

A case management conference is a meeting that takes place early in the legal process, usually within six to eight weeks of the lawsuit being filed. The conference’s purpose is to assist the judge in managing the case and ensuring that it proceeds in an efficient and orderly manner.

The judge, attorneys for both sides, and any other parties with a direct interest in the case usually attend the conference. For instance, all parties must be present at the hearing in an unlimited civil case. In general, the judge will request an update on the status of the case, including any progress made in fulfilling discovery obligations and scheduling depositions.

The judge may also rule on procedural issues such as motions to quash or requests for protective orders. At the case management conference, the judge may set a trial date in some cases. If the case is not yet ready for trial, the judge may schedule another case management conference to check on the status of discovery and other pretrial matters.

The Case Management Procedure

The entire process of case management can be generally broken down into five main parts: the filing of the case, the investigation stage, the pre-trial stage, the trial itself, and the post-trial stage.

The Filing of the Case 

This is the stage at which the plaintiff files a complaint with the court, alleging that the defendant has wronged them. In general, the complaint will state what the plaintiff is seeking in terms of damages or other relief.

The Investigation Stage 

Following the filing of the complaint, both parties will begin to investigate the facts of the case. Depositions, document requests, and witness interviews may all be part of the process.

The Pre-Trial Stage 

This is the stage in a case management process where both parties exchange information and try to reach an out-of-court settlement. The trial date will be set if they cannot reach a settlement, the trial date will be set.

The Trial

This is the stage at which both parties present their evidence and argue their respective positions before a jury or judge. The judge or jury decides whether the plaintiff or defendant is right after hearing all the evidence.

The Post-Trial Stage 

If either party believes that procedural errors were made during the trial, they may file an appeal. An appeal can be a lengthy and complicated process, so it is generally recommended that you consult with an attorney before filing one.

What Happens After the Case Management Conference?

A case management conference can have one of several possible outcomes. For one, the case can go to trial, with a trial date assigned for evidence to be presented to a judge or a jury trial. The court reporter at the conference is in charge of the court record.

Another option is for the case to be settled out of court, with parties reaching an agreement without going to trial. This can happen before or after the case management hearing, but it is more common to take place after. People can choose alternative dispute resolution (ADR), which refers to the various methods for resolving disputes without going to court. Arbitration, mediation, and neutral evaluation are examples of standard ADR procedures.

A third option is for the court to dismiss the case. This occurs if the court believes there is insufficient testimonial, documentary, demonstrative, or physical evidence to proceed to trial or if one of the parties fails to follow the proper procedures. In any of these situations, it is critical to have an experienced lawyer on your side to assist you in navigating the legal system.

What Happens if You Miss a Case Management Conference?

If you are a litigant in a case and fail to attend a case management conference, the court may take one of the following actions: direct that the case be tried, set new deadlines for the parties to file documents or take other actions, or dismiss the case entirely. For example, a case can be dismissed if the plaintiff fails to adequately present the complaint. 

At the same time, missing a case management conference can have serious consequences for your legal proceedings. If you’re involved in a lawsuit, keeping track of all deadlines and appearances, including case management conferences, is essential.

How To Prepare for a Case Management Conference?

You should do several things to get ready for the CMC. First, go over all of the pleadings in your case and make sure you understand them all. You should also be familiar with the facts of your case and have a general understanding of the applicable law.

Following that, you should meet with your attorney to discuss your case and your goals. Finally, you should be ready to talk about your mandatory settlement conference at the CMC. If you have any concerns about the settlement, you should consult with your attorney before the hearing.

You should be well-prepared for the CMC, as it represents a pivotal stage in your case. Consult an attorney if you have concerns or questions about the CMC or how to prepare for it.

Case Management in Law - Bottom Line

To summarize, CMCs are an important part of the litigation process because they help to ensure cases are resolved fairly and quickly. Furthermore, CMCs allow attorneys to assess the strength of their cases and devise strategies for moving forward. If you have any doubts, it is always a good idea to seek legal advice from an attorney who will walk you through the entire process.