Drafting an outline of argument or submissions

If you are in a civil matter in the Queensland Court of Appeal or the District Court you will have to file an Outline of Argument.

Even if it is not required, it is common practice for lawyers attending court hearings to give the court a summary of their argument. In fact, it can be a good way of:

  1. helping you to organise your thoughts ahead of the court hearing. This can be invaluable in calming your nerves. The better prepared you are, the easier your court appearance will be; and
  2. putting your arguments in a clear straightforward way to the judge.

Three court practice directions deal with outlines of argument:

  1. District Court Practice Direction 5/2001 requires the parties to appeals in the District Court to prepare and file an Outline of Argument.
  2. Supreme Court Practice Direction 3/2013 requires the parties in the Court of Appeal to file Outlines of Argument, limited to 10 pages.
  3. Supreme Court Practice Directions 06/2004 and 14/1999 require the legal representatives of parties in interlocutory applications to file an Outline of Argument of no more than four pages.

Some tips for drafting an outline of argument

  1. Don’t make the Outline of Argument too long or repetitive. If your argument is expressed clearly and makes sense, then repeating it won’t make it more persuasive. If your argument is poorly set out, repeating it won’t help you. Make your point once, then move on to the next issue.
  2. There isn’t a form under the UCPR for an Outline of Argument, but you can adapt the basic format of a court document (e.g. the header) to create your outline of argument.
  3. Use headings. For example:
    1. Why should leave to appeal be granted? If you need the leave of the court, set out firstly why you are seeking leave to appeal, identifying the errors of law that you are relying on.
    2. If you don’t need leave, your first heading should be “What this appeal is about”; an introductory paragraph that sets out very basically what the case is about.
    3. Background; you should just include a couple of paragraphs setting out the key background facts of the case.
    4. Grounds of appeal; you should then use separate headings to discuss each of your ground of appeal first stating the law relating to that issue, then a separate paragraph applying the law to the facts of your case.
    5. Orders sought; you should include a heading where you set out what outcome you want from the court.

An outline for an interlocutory hearing might use the following headers:

What is this hearing about?
Background facts
Orders sought
  1. Your Outline of Argument should contain the legal arguments you are relying on, not your evidence.
  2. Your Outline of Argument should just be an outline or summary of your argument.
  3. Consider using a chronology of the key facts.
  4. Comply with the Practice Directions about Outlines of Argument in the court that you are appearing in.
  5. If you are using an Outline of Argument, bring two copies for the court, one for each of the other parties and one for yourself.
  6. Consider serving the Outline of Argument on the other party before the hearing.
  7. Keep the outline short and to the point.
  8. Use short paragraphs.
  9. Avoid lengthy quotations.