Pre-trial or preparatory proceedings are considered a key tool for achieving efficient civil proceedings. The claims and the factual background of the case are clarified at an early stage and the main hearing is concentrated. Judicial settlement efforts and court-connected mediation contribute to early resolution of cases. This project explores the regulation, goals and functioning of preparatory proceedings in four Scandinavian (Nordic) countries and eight former communist countries. The Nordic countries have had the main hearing model of civil proceedings for some decades. Recent reforms have further enhanced the role of the preparatory stage. Judicial settlement efforts and court-connected mediation are important elements of Nordic civil procedure. Former communist countries are reforming their earlier piecemeal format civil proceedings by introducing and strengthening the written and oral preparation. Court-connected mediation has also been introduced.