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This page describes the pre-trial processes for civil cases begun by a Writ of Summons (Writ) and heard in the Magistrate’s Court (non-injury motor accident action and any action for personal injuries), the District Court, and the General Division of the High Court.

Refer to Start a civil claim by Writ of Summons (simplified civil process) or Respond to a civil claim made by a Writ of Summons (simplified civil process) instead if either of the following applies to your case:

  • Civil cases begun by a Writ and heard in the Magistrate's Court (except non-injury motor accident action and any action for personal injuries).
  • Civil cases begun by a Writ and heard in the District Court where all parties consent to the application of the simplified civil process.

At your pre-trial conference

The court may direct parties to attend a pre-trial conference (PTC) for a civil case at any time before a trial. Depending on the nature of your case, you may go through several PTCs.

In general, the court may consider the following at a PTC:

  • Seek an update on the status of an action.
  • Monitor the progress of your case.
  • Give necessary directions for the just, quick and economical resolution of the civil case.
  • Consider the possibility of settlement of all or any of the issues in the civil case or proceedings.
    • Parties who reach a settlement at a PTC may record the settlement in court.
  • Assess the suitability of using the concurrent expert evidence procedure during the trial.

Attendance is compulsory

All parties will be informed by the court of the date and time to attend PTCs via a notice (Form 64, Rules of Court). Each party must comply with the directions stated in the notice, if any.

You or your lawyer (if any) must attend the PTC. If you filed the claim (the plaintiff) and you or your lawyer (if any) do not attend, the court may dismiss your claim or make any other order as the court thinks fit.

If the claim is made against you (the defendant) and you or your lawyer (if any) do not attend, the court may strike out your defence or make any other order at the court's discretion.

When to attend

When you will have to attend a PTC during your civil case depends on where your case is heard.

If your case is heard in the Magistrate's Court or District Court, a PTC will be conducted after the parties inform the court that they are ready for trial. This is known as setting the case down for trial.

When attending the PTC, you should inform the court of the following:

  • The number of witnesses you would like to call for the trial.
    • You should check with your witnesses on their availability to attend court. This is to ensure that your witnesses will be available on the trial dates.
  • The estimated number of trial days.
    • In general, the court will only allocate limited days for the trial and for parties to subsequently request further trial dates only if necessary. This is to prevent wastage of trial days in the event parties settle their case before or on the first day of trial.
You should inform the court during the PTC if you or any of your witnesses is not comfortable communicating in English. This is so that interpreters may be arranged to attend the trial.

Once all pre-trial matters and applications are dealt with, the court will schedule a date for the civil trial.

Specially managed civil list (SMCL)

Certain categories of cases take a significantly longer time to be resolved due to their complexity. These categories of cases are known as the specially managed civil list (SMCL).

The following categories of cases are included in the SMCL where the value of the claim exceeds $150,000:

  • Banking.
  • Corporate finance.
  • Company law.
  • Intellectual property.
  • Securities.
  • Equity and trust.
  • Professional negligence.
  • Construction disputes.
  • Medical law.
  • Defamation actions commenced in the District Court.
  • Representative proceedings under Order 15 of Rule 12 of the Rules of Court.
  • Consolidated suits where the total claim exceeds $150,000.
  • Cases that do not fall within the above categories but are included by the registrar or PTC judge for special reasons, upon application by the parties involved.
  • Any case deemed suitable at the discretion of the registrar.
  • Cases that are transferred to the State Courts from the High Court.
    • All motor and industrial accident cases will not be identified for SMCL even if they were transferred to the State Courts from the High Court.

After the close of pleadings, SMCL cases are tracked by a designated team of judicial officers who will deal with all the pre-trial matters during PTCs. In general, SMCL PTCs are conducted asynchronously.

Refer to the State Courts Registrar's Circular No. 3 of 2020 to find out how SMCL PTCs are conducted and what you can expect.

If your case is heard in the General Division of the High Court, the first PTC will be scheduled within 8 weeks from the date on which the Writ is served or the Memorandum of Appearance (MOA) is filed by the defendant.

If you are the plaintiff and do not serve the Writ, the first PTC will usually be scheduled 6 weeks after the filing of the Writ.

PTCs in the General Division of the High Court are usually conducted by court officers called registrars. At PTCs, the registrar may give directions on any of the following to progress the case in a quick and fair manner:

PTCs may also be conducted by a judge, depending on the nature of your case.

Need help?

The information here is for general guidance as the courts do not provide legal advice. If you need further help, you may want to get independent legal advice.

Find out more


Refer to:

Legislation associated with this topic includes Order 34A of the Rules of Court.

Refer to:

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