“Dispute Resolution in the Light of Lord Justice Briggs’ Civil Courts Structure Review”

by Anthony Trace QC at 4 Pump Court

Posted: 16th January 2018 08:40

In any society there needs to be a system for the resolution of disputes. The question for the next decade or so is what that system should be. In my 35 years as a litigator at Maitland Chambers, before I left and moved to 4 Pump Court to pursue a career as a full time Mediator, I had to act pro bono for a significant number of people with legal grievances because they could not afford to pay the legal fees involved.
 
The position has been aggravated by the reductions in the availability of legal aid and the rise in court issue fees: it now costs £10,000 to issue a claim form in the High Court.
 
I also came across many clients who were concerned that costs had reached too high a stage to warrant settling their case at all.
 
One of the phrases that I used to say to clients and to those instructing me was: “Litigation is not an end in itself. It is a means to an end”. In my opinion, I remain of the view that this phrase is a valid  and apt one with regards to what system for resolution of legal disputes should be in place, and this should be the initial yardstick against which the success of any system for dispute resolution should be judged – does any such system actually produce an end? To that yardstick, in my opinion, two matters should be added: proportionate speed and cost.
 
All of the above has to be balanced with the right of people with legal grievances to have access to Court.  That is a difficult balance.
 
Lord Justice Briggs’ (soon to be Lord Briggs’, given his elevation to the Supreme Court) Civil Courts Structure Review makes a number of important matters for consideration, and there is much to be said for the view that he takes, that the phrase “Alternative Dispute Resolution” should simply be “Dispute Resolution”.
 
As I see it, there will be the need for more and more consideration about how the Courts can be adapted to meet the needs of  modern society in this increasingly computerised age. It will be very interesting indeed to see how cost, access to justice at proportionate cost, speed of resolution of legal disputes, computerisation, and the needs of modern society, will all be balanced and reconciled for the common good of all those with legal grievances. There will, of course, be the need for Court process, but that process has to be, in my opinion, carefully reviewed and considered in the light of all the matters referred to above in this article.
 
Anthony Trace QC practises as a full time Mediator (doing both Facilitative and Evaluative, e.g. Early Neutral Valuation, Mediations) at 4 Pump Court.

Anthony can be contacted on +44 207 842 5555 or by email at atrace@4pumpcourt.com 

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