At the final pretrial conference (also called a settlement conference), all parties meet with the Court prior to trial for the purpose of effecting an amicable settlement or, if settlement is not achieved, to narrow the legal issues for trial and set a date for trial to begin.
First and foremost, the purpose of the final meeting before trial is for the Court to assist the parties in settling the case without proceeding to trial. Generally, the parties and their attorneys must be present or available by phone throughout the settlement conference.
Settlement conferences may be conducted according to the preference of the Court. This means that settlement conferences may vary in time and structure. During the course of the conference, the Court will attempt to facilitate a voluntary agreement so that a trial is unnecessary.
Though practically they are the same meeting, a settlement conference effectively becomes a final pretrial conference if the parties cannot reach settlement terms. When this occurs, the Court will use the meeting as an opportunity to discuss, among other things, the outstanding disputed issues, stipulations, technical and logistical needs at trial, expected witnesses, expected pre-trial motions, and predicted length of time needed for trial.
Trials take time and effort from all sides, including the Court, which uses the final pretrial conference to plan for the necessities of a trial. By the time of your final pretrial conference, your attorney will also have begun preparing for your upcoming trial.