In Pimlico Plumbers Ltd -v- Smith  EWCA Civ 51 the Court of Appeal stated that oral closing submissions are important. Relying on written submissions alone represents a “considerable risk”.
The Court of Appeal was considering an appeal from the Employment Appeal Tribunal on the issue of whether an individual was an employee or self-employed contractor. It transpired that the EAT had not heard closing submissions but these were submitted in writing.
We were told by counsel that the final submissions to the ET were all in writing and that there were no closing oral submissions. In a complex and important case like the present one, that course is unsatisfactory, carries considerable risk and should be avoided if at all possible. It does not give the ET the opportunity to question and test the case of each side in the light of the evidence and to clarify submissions which are or appear to be inconsistent or unclear. The fact that we have spent over a day in the Court of Appeal doing precisely that shows how important and valuable that can be.