Over the past fortnight I have seen every one of  Sedley’s Laws of  Documents in action. This has prompted me to set out a quick reminder. Firstly of the Practice Direction and secondly of Sedley’s laws themselves.  The “Laws” were written by a very experienced judge. It is not difficult to understand how he came to write them.  The cases set out the “Related Posts” section below show numerous cases where judges have commented on the trial bundles.

I also recommend that everyone reads Trial bundles: why they are important and how to get them right by District Judge Waterworth which sets out the importance of a good trial bundle.



Everything you need to know is set out in Practice Direction 39A.

“Bundles of documents for hearings or trial

3.1  Unless the court orders otherwise, the claimant must file the trial bundle not more than 7 days and not less than 3 days before the start of the trial.

3.2  Unless the court orders otherwise, the trial bundle should include a copy of:

(1) the claim form and all statements of case,

(2) a case summary and/or chronology where appropriate,

(3) requests for further information and responses to the requests,

(4) all witness statements to be relied on as evidence,

(5) any witness summaries,

(6) any notices of intention to rely on hearsay evidence under rule 32.2,

(7) any notices of intention to rely on evidence (such as a plan, photograph etc.) under rule 33.6 which is not –

(a) contained in a witness statement, affidavit or experts report,

(b) being given orally at trial,

(c) hearsay evidence under rule 33.2,

(8) any medical reports and responses to them,

(9) any experts’ reports and responses to them,

(10) any order giving directions as to the conduct of the trial, and

(11) any other necessary documents.

3.3  The originals of the documents contained in the trial bundle, together with copies of any other court orders should be available at the trial.

3.4  The preparation and production of the trial bundle, even where it is delegated to another person, is the responsibility of the legal representative5 who has conduct of the claim on behalf of the claimant.

3.5  The trial bundle should be paginated (continuously) throughout, and indexed with a description of each document and the page number. Where the total number of pages is more than 100, numbered dividers should be placed at intervals between groups of documents.

3.6  The bundle should normally be contained in a ring binder or lever arch file. Where more than one bundle is supplied, they should be clearly distinguishable, for example, by different colours or letters. If there are numerous bundles, a core bundle should be prepared containing the core documents essential to the proceedings, with references to the supplementary documents in the other bundles.

3.7  For convenience, experts’ reports may be contained in a separate bundle and cross referenced in the main bundle.

3.8  If a document to be included in the trial bundle is illegible, a typed copy should be included in the bundle next to it, suitably cross-referenced.

3.9  The contents of the trial bundle should be agreed where possible. The parties should also agree where possible:

(1) that the documents contained in the bundle are authentic even if not disclosed under Part 31, and

(2) that documents in the bundle may be treated as evidence of the facts stated in them even if a notice under the Civil Evidence Act 1995 has not been served.Where it is not possible to agree the contents of the bundle, a summary of the points on which the parties are unable to agree should be included.

3.10  The party filing the trial bundle should supply identical bundles to all the parties to the proceedings and for the use of the witnesses.”


These were written by Sedley LJ.

First Law: Documents may be assembled in any order, provided it is not chronological, numerical or alphabetical.

Second Law: Documents shall in no circumstances be paginated continuously.

Third Law: No two copies of any bundle shall have the same pagination.

Fourth Law: Every document shall carry at least three numbers in different places.

Fifth Law: Any important documents shall be omitted.

Sixth Law: At least 10 percent of the documents shall appear more than once in the bundle.

Seventh Law: As many photocopies as practicable shall be illegible, truncated or cropped.

Eighth Law:

  1. At least 80 percent of the documents shall be irrelevant.

  2. Counsel shall refer in court to no more than 10 percent of the documents, but these may include as many irrelevant ones as counsel or solicitor deems appropriate.

Ninth Law: Only one side of any double-sided document shall be reproduced.

Tenth Law: Transcriptions of manuscript documents shall bear as little relation as reasonably practicable to the original.

Eleventh Law: Documents shall be held together, in the absolute discretion of the solicitor assembling them, by:

  1. a steel pin sharp enough to injure the reader,

  2. a staple too short to penetrate the full thickness of the bundle.

  3. tape binding so stitched that the bundle cannot be fully opened, or,

  4. a ring or arch-binder, so damaged that the two arcs do not meet.


 There are further and supplemental parts of the Laws that require consideration have a look at Employment Tribunal Claims by Naomi Cunningham and Michael Reed for additional comments.

“A further law: If any portion of any document is of particular importance to any issue in the case, that portion shall be highlighted, before copying, in a dark colour so that after copying it is rendered as nearly illegible as is reasonably practicable.”



The comments also reveal some controversy as the law (there may be doctrinal differences in years to come).

“A note that this account is missing the Eighth law, and (ah, the irony!) the 8th and following in this list are therefore misnumbered.

The Eighth law is:

“Significant passages shall be marked with a highlighter that goes black when photocopied”.”