Steps Before a Hearing

Last Reviewed: October, 2023 Reviewed by: JES

Tribunals Follow Their Own Set of Rules

Whereas the courts have a standard set of rules that govern all court proceedings, tribunals are established to resolve disputes about very different and specific topics. For this reason, every tribunal follows its own set of rules and procedures. Learn more about the differences between tribunals and courts see Tribunals.

To learn more about the process that your case may follow, search the Admin Law Directory and select the suitable tribunal or agency.

What happens first?

Tribunals are established to resolve disputes or determine your rights and benefits. Many things will happen before an adjudicator makes a decision or hears your case. Most tribunals will take some or all of the following steps in an effort to resolve your dispute or determine your rights as quickly as possible. Check your tribunal’s website to find out what steps will be followed in the dispute resolution process.


Preliminary reviews

A senior tribunal staff member or one of the tribunal members usually does a preliminary review of your case. This ensures that your case is before the correct tribunal and it is within the correct time limit. During this initial review stage, an adjudicator may contact you to ask for more information. Before an in-person hearing, you may be asked to provide written submissions, or to participate in a telephone hearing. See Types of Tribunal Hearings to learn more.


Case management

Not all disputes have to be adjudicated at a tribunal hearing. Many disputes are resolved long before they reach that stage. An adjudicator may use case management techniques to find out if the matter can be resolved without a hearing. For example, a tribunal member may arrange a telephone conference with the parties to understand the issues that are in dispute, the evidence that the parties have gathered to support their claims, and how the case will proceed if it cannot be resolved at this stage. The tribunal member may order that the parties exchange documents and other information with each other.

A tribunal will sometimes arrange for the parties to attend a settlement conference or a mediation session. These sessions help parties reach a mutually satisfactory agreement about how to resolve the dispute without the expense and stress of a tribunal hearing.



The tribunal sometimes imposes mediation in an effort to resolve the dispute without a full hearing. In some cases, the parties have the option of choosing mediation.

Mediation is a meeting between the parties for the purpose of negotiating a resolution that is acceptable to both parties. The benefit of a mediated settlement is that the parties can resolve the matter in any way that is acceptable to them, as opposed to a win-lose resolution that an adjudicator may impose. Discussions at a mediation session are confidential, which means that no one else will know what was discussed. The mediator is a neutral person (often a senior staff person or a tribunal member) who discusses the issues with the parties with a view to reaching consensus. If the parties cannot reach an agreement, the matter can proceed to a hearing.


Settlement conference

A neutral tribunal member conducts the settlement conference, but they may take an active role in discussions and offer a non-binding opinion on what the outcome might be if the parties proceed to a hearing. Non-binding means that the opinion will not be imposed on you. Settlement conferences are confidential and if an agreement cannot be reached, the matters discussed at the conference cannot be raised at the subsequent tribunal hearing. A settlement conference may be held instead of a mediation session where the tribunal has a duty to ensure that any agreement is in accordance with the legislative scheme that governs the claim or dispute.

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