Too early to say

By | 15th September 2009

Asked in the 1970s what he thought about the effects of the French Revolution, Chinese Premier at the time Zhou Enlai  famously replied, “It is too early to say”. 

Currently there are a large number of reports from a variety of sources that the end of the recession is here and that the good times are set to roll again. 

The Stock Market has surged above 5000, house prices appear to have risen or at least stopped falling and there are tentative reports that law firms have been through the worst (and it was pretty awful according to some reports) and that recruitment just might be in the up again.

I am sceptical. I can accept that everyone would like the Stock Market to rise, restoring some of the damage done to pensions over the last 18 months and that we all like to think we are living in an appreciating asset. 

What I cannot accept, however, is that the recession is anywhere near over while unemployment continues its relentless upward surge. I think that those who are calling the end of recession have got it wrong and that we will not see a real end to the bad times until people feel that their jobs are secure. I have commented previously about the apparent rise in the number of litigation related instructions during the last month but if we are realistic I think clients are still keen to put off decisions about litigation if they can and if they cannot they continue to be wary about committing large amounts of time and resource to the process. 

Phrases like pre-trial review and early case assessment have been around for years but technology is moving at a blistering pace and what took many months and hundreds of thousands of pounds to process and review now takes a matter of days and a few thousand pounds to achieve. The process is now so quick that there is no need to sort out what the client may have before sending it for processing. The cost of processing is now so much lower than only a year ago that lawyers would be well advised to throw everything into the pot so that they know they have looked at everything before advising their clients. Within hours or at any rate days they will be able to advise their clients on their position safe in the knowledge that they will have considered all the documents and weeded out those which are irrelevant at that early stage. 

As for the upsurge in litigation in the City of London or indeed elsewhere, there are some optimistic voices but, in my view, “it is too early to say!”