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Final Pre-Hearing Conference - What are your thoughts?

What circumstances would obviate the need to hold a final pre-hearing conference before the evidentiary hearing? That is, after holding the preliminary hearing conference, the next time an arbitrator might conceivably speak to or see the parties and their counsel is at the evidentiary hearing. What are the advantages and disadvantages of not holding a final pre-hearing conference?

Please provide your thoughts/comments below.

Comments (8)

Louis Coffey:

I have been a commercial arbitrator since 1972 and am not familiar with a "final pre-hearing conference".

At the preliminary hearing we agree on one or more pre-hearing status conferences. The number depends on the size,complexity and number of scheduled pre-hearing events, as well as the lead time between the preliminary hearing and the evidentiary hearings.

Occasionally, a need arises to conduct unscheduled conferences when there is an allegation of non-compliance with agreements reached at the preliminary hearing or disputes regarding pre-hearing motions, discovery or subpoena and other pre-hearing disputes.

Coffey Consulting Co

It has been my experience that one preliminary hearing is usually all that has been necessary. Sometimes there is an issue that needs to be resolved after the first one, such as calling another preliminary to deal with a recalcitrant party who has not provided agreed-upon documents. But I have never held a separate, 'final' pre-evidentiary hearing, since there has been no need.

Deanne Wilson:

Pro: After reading the briefs, arbitrator unclear about positions, issues, etc; parties having issues with discovery; sudden issue with witness appearance; after reading briefs, arbitrator not comfortable with hearing schedule, length of hours, etc.

Con: Arbitrator must be extremely careful not to show any bias (that may have resulted from reading briefs, etc.); care must be taken to avoid any changes in hearing dates; additional cost.

There are probably many more advantages/disadvantages, but all must be weighed against the goals of fairness, speed and clarity.

Judge Gerald Harris:

The most obvious advantage of not holding a final pre-hearing conference is the cost saving and avoidance of a potentially time wasting exercise. However, if there remain open issues that might impede a smooth and expeditious hearing it may be appropriate to hold such a conference to insure best use of time at the hearing.

In my experience, the pre-hearing conference is often rendered unnecessary because the parties agree on hearing logistics (exhibits, order of witnesses, the need for a record, etc.) In fact, the parties often seek relief at a pre-hearing conference that we arbitrators are unlikely to grant, such as a continuance, an order in limine and even dispositive relief. Perhaps the most common issue I am asked to consider, however, and one that makes the most of a pre-hearing conference, is permission for a Respondent to call a witness out of order, even during the Claimant's case-in-chief.

Michael Orfield:

Out of habit I hold what used to be the “Trial Readiness Conference” before trial. I ask the counsel to turn the Witness List into a schedule in order to confirm the length of the EH. I confirm that the Exhibit Notebooks have been created. I discuss any issues that might need a red flag before the hearing, a heads up if you will for my benefit. I discuss my position on rebuttal and impeachment testimony. We work out any extraordinary issues like creating a Federal Time Clock system. We confirm start and stop times, breaks, etc.

William Pastor:

The preceding comments suggest that such a conference is only called for where there is a specific need or purpose that emerges in the case. Such conferences are probably less often necessary in simpler cases, especially since these are the ones where controlling expenses is especially important. More complex cases often have pre-arranged status conferences to preserve momentum, and any case potentially may require a not-previously-scheduled conference for unforeseen problems, discovery issues, etc. However, routinely scheduling a "final" conference in every case seems unnecessary.


I always hold a pre-hearing conference to discuss with the parties details such as exact times for the hearing, order and presence of witnesses, videoconferencing arrangements, opening and closing statements, stenographer, translators, etc. Usually around two weeks before the hearing. Carlos Bianchi

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