Skeleton argument

A document providing the bare bones of a case.


As the name suggests this is a written document providing the bare bones of a case. It will be given to the court prior to the hearing and should be a summary of the issues which will be addressed at the hearing. They are usually prepared for such things as interim applications, contested hearings, final hearings and appeals. They can be prepared by a solicitor or barrister if you are legally represented or by a litigant in person.


It gives the judge a brief synopsis of the relevant matters for the court to consider and also outlines agreements and disagreements between the parties.


The Civil Procedure Rules have clear guidelines setting out what is required in the document. The aim is to prevent the arguments becoming lengthy and not focussing on the issues that need to be determined. They are not meant to replace oral advocacy and advocates will be expected to flesh up these bare bones during submissions. It should not normally exceed 20 pages of double-spaced A4 paper and ideally it should be less protracted than this. Abbreviations, if used, must be easily understood.


The document itself must be concise but must identify the areas of controversy. It needs to be clearly set out with numbered paragraphs and must be cross-referenced to any relevant document in the bundle. Documents to be relied on must be identified. If an authority is going to be relied upon the skeleton argument should 'state the proposition of law the authority demonstrates; and identify the parts of the authority that support the proposition.'


There may need to be a list included which will detail people who feature in the case. It may also be necessary to list events in a chronological order. In some technical cases a glossary of terms may also be included.

Any statement of costs must show the amount claimed for the skeleton argument separately. Failure to comply with the requirements or failure to file the skeleton argument within the time limits provided may result in the costs of preparing the skeleton argument being disallowed by the court.



Overly long skeleton arguments could lead to costs sanctions




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