June 12, 2023

Preparing Applications in Uncertain Conditions

May 8, 2023

Competence is a Delicate Flower

March 30 , 2023

Urgent! Very Hard to Meet a Limitation Period

March 13 , 2023

Parties to Planning Appeals

March 7 , 2023

Costs in Family Law Litigation

January 30 , 2023

Dodging Settlement Privilege

January 4 , 2023

Lurking Dangers and Errors

January 3 , 2023

Your Real Goals

December 5 , 2022

Contracts for Higher Costs

November 24 , 2022

Scope of Offers to Settle

October 13 , 2022

Checklist for Cross-Examination

September 16 , 2022

Reviewing Latest Changes

August 22 , 2022

First Steps in Problem Solving

July 28 , 2022

Checklist of Powerful Procedural Principles

March 22 , 2022

Repeating a Cross-Examination Question

January 25 , 2022

Enforcing Land Sales Becomes Easier

January 5 , 2022

Proving a Settlement After a Mediation

November 16, 2021

Types of Injunctions

October 1, 2021

Orders After Litigation is Over

August 11, 2021

Discoverability for Limitation Periods

August 5 , 2021

Releases of Claims

June 7 , 2021

Language Used Still Matters

May 17 , 2021

Serving Uncooperative People

April 15 , 2021

Death and After-Life of Contingency Agreements

February 22 , 2021

Legal Analysis

February 2 , 2021

Costs Clarified at Last

January 4 , 2021


December 10, 2020

Traps and Confusion in Service Times

November 24, 2020

Don't Cut Corners

October 2 , 2020

Consent Orders

August 4 , 2020

Electronic Hearings

July 21, 2020

Ceasing to Act

June 29, 2020

Writing Skills

June 29, 2020

Keeping Up With the Law

June 22, 2020

Assets as a Test for Security for Costs

June 19, 2020

What is This Case About?

June 11, 2020

Cross-Examining Child Witnesses

May 20 , 2020

Formal Offers

May 13 , 2020

Vexatious or Self-Represented Litigants

January 7, 2020

G.S.T. and Costs

December 20 , 2019

Electronically Navigating the

October 7 , 2019

Questioning is a Bad Word

July 29 , 2019

Dismissal for Delay

May 7 , 2019

Rule 4.31 Fallacies

March 18 , 2019

More Dangers in Oral Fee Agreements

February 11 , 2019

Weir-Jones Decisions

January 9 , 2019

Discouraging Settlements

November 30, 2018

European Court Helps You Twice?

November 23 , 2018

Courts Overruling Tribunals

November 16 , 2018

New Evidence on Appeal

October 30 , 2018

Schedule C's Role

July 17 , 2018

Loopholes in Enforcing Settlements

May 7 , 2018

Enforcement of Procedure Rules

April 16, 2018

Limping Lawsuits are Often

April 3 , 2018

Court of Appeal Tips for
Summary Decisions

March 19, 2018

Serious Dangers in Chambers

February 13 , 2018

Court Backlog

December 18 , 2017

Lowering the Status of Courts

September 15 , 2017

Access to Court Decisions

July 4 , 2017

Strictissimi Juris

June 14 , 2017

Why Don't Your Clients Settle?

June 5 , 2017

Gap in Rules About Parties

June 5, 2017

Personal Costs Against

April 26, 2017

Clogged Courts

April 11, 2017

Dismissal for Want of

January 6, 2017

Incomplete Disclosure

December 15, 2016


November 23, 2016

Is Contract Interpretation Law?


Côté’s Commentaries

© J.E. Côté 2016-2023


What were the best ways to prepare written materials for an application are set out in my Systematic Advocacy book. But recent problems in the Alberta courts add to the topic. Now things take longer, there can be small puzzles, getting answers or correcting little errors is harder, and deadlines are more dangerous. (See my blog dated March 30, 2023, and the upcoming September 2023 issue of the Stevenson & Côté Handbook.)

So here are a few more tips to make the process go better and avoid disasters.

1. Early in the life of a file, warn your client in writing about

(a) deadlines,
(b) how long it will take to do the work to meet the deadlines,
(c) the bad effects of missing a deadline, and
(d) how many weeks before certain events you would need instructions, in order to take effective action in court.

2. You will have to carry out several tasks simultaneously. So a team approach and some delegation is very often desirable. If your office has someone very good with detail, paperwork, and organization, try to get some help from that person. Sometimes solicitors have more such skills than do barristers. Often only one (or part of one) task requires a detailed knowledge of the issues. Someone should prepare a folder or binder or electronic document giving the relevant sections of statutes, Rules of Court, Practice Directions, court website Announcements, and notes of unpublished changes, for the procedure for a certain general class of applications. Some of the types of work to be done may be fairly mechanical, having to do with timing, logistics, and the latest procedures (or backlogs), rather than with the merits.

3. Project management skills are very useful. Above all, you must not wait to start what you think is step 4, until after steps 1, 2, and 3 are completed. Any task which has no preconditions, or whose preconditions are now met, should be started at once. Try to detect more or less what is one path, i.e. a string of steps, each of which is a precondition to the next step, so that a delay in one delays all later steps in that long string. For example, do not wait until the end of the process to produce formal covers or end sheets for documents, whether these are electronic or paper (or both). You know their contents at the outset, so prepare them at the outset. When you identify strings of steps, try to see which string is the critical one. In other words, which string will take longer (even if all goes well) than the other strings take.

4. If no one in your office has prepared a court application in the last 60 days, someone should now become acquainted with all the actual on-the-ground processes and practicalities (and maybe shortcuts). Learn all that even before the client has definitely approved bringing an application or decided just what it will complain about or ask for.

5. List all your people and your client's people who may have to approve things, authorize things, provide evidence, or swear oaths. Then ensure that all of them will be available all through the process. Make sure none is likely to go on holiday or a voyage. Get now from each of those people every possible location, email address, cell-phone number, etc. which might be used (permanently or temporarily) to reach them. Learn reliably whether it will be possible to exchange documents, including pdf form or fax.

6. Try to learn how to contact someone in the court administration who can give you advice or help if you have a query or if something goes wrong. Someone who could look at a draft of a document and say early if it has problems of form, would be valuable. If you cannot find someone in the court administration, find a lawyer in another firm who files such documents frequently and knows what and when the courts will accept. It cannot cost that big a fee for advice on logistics or form.


– Hon. J.E. Côté

The Commentaries are intended to call the attention of lawyers to promising or threatening developments in the law, in civil procedure, in developing their skills, or simply to describe something curious, funny or intriguing.

The Hon. Jean Côté retired from the Court of Appeal of Alberta and would be willing to act as an arbitrator, mediator, or referee under Rules 6.44 and 6.45 of the Alberta Rules of Court.

He may be contacted through Juriliber at:

email: or phone 780-424-5345.