Banging on

By | 13th December 2011

There are times when I can be quite as grumpy as the next man. Indeed there are acquaintances (in the circumstances, I cannot call them friends) who think I have perfected the art. All I know is that there are people who wish to tell anyone who is listening what they had for breakfast and many other fascinating details of their daily life, and that does not appeal to me at all.

So I will not tell you about my recent train journey to Liverpool courtesy of Sir Richard’s Virgin Pendolino trains where, at a totally unscheduled stop in Crewe which was going to make us late in any event, the train came to a grinding halt and the “train manager” (whatever happened to the guard?) announced a complete loss of power and urged anyone in the disabled loo not to panic when the doors failed to open!

35 minutes later, power was mysteriously restored and we arrived some 45 minutes late into Lime Street to find there were no taxis. I promised not to tell you about all this but instead of being grumpy I found the extra time useful to catch up on some reading and to reflect on the end of 2011.

Will it go out with a bang or a whimper? I have already posted some predictions for 2012 [Old Holloway’s Almanack, 1st December, 2011] and the time will doubtless arrive to review 2011 but I find myself curiously optimistic. Just as well I was not in the loo when the train stopped as my mood would have been somewhat different once released.

I have posted items recently dealing with a number of judicial pronouncements both in this country [In the race to modernity..  8th December, 2011] and in the United States [Pandora’s Box, 6th December, 2011]. On my powerless train there was just enough light on a windy grey December morning to read two of Lord Justice Jackson’s latest lectures in his implementation programme series on the subjects of avoiding and resolving construction disputes and Third Party Funding or Litigation Funding as it is becoming known.

Jackson obviously hopes that all his reforms will come into effect some time in 2012 and as part of a “Big Bang” of reforms. I am not so sure that will happen but if it does not it will not be because Lord Justice Jackson has not put enough effort into persuading all concerned that these reforms are necessary if we are ever to curb the ever rising costs of litigation.

It appears that Commercial Court Judges have already undertaken e-disclosure training and others will have training provided next year. It is hoped that providers of CPD training for solicitors and counsel will come up with similar training. What is clear is that a far higher degree of knowledge of e-disclosure amongst those appearing at CMCs will be expected in future and that must be a good thing because inappropriate use of technology can often be as bad as no use at all in proper circumstances.

I get the feeling that there are a number of strands coming together to make a meaningful change to the way litigation in general and disclosure in particular are handled in this country. As Jackson says, “…the first case management conference should be a real event at which the court takes hold of the case and gives directions which will focus the factual evidence, the expert evidence and the disclosed documents on the real issues between the parties.”

Amen to that.

Add to that the development and expansion of litigation funding (Investec’s recent entry into the market for example) and the arrival of the Association of Litigation Funders and the Code of Conduct prepared by the committee chaired by Michael Napier QC (Irwin Mitchell’s chief for many years and soon to settle into well-earned retirement?) and I think the future of litigation looks brighter than for some time.

Optimistic? Possibly. Perhaps too many early mince pies and fattening alcoholic drinks, but I sense more joined up thinking here. Someone told me recently that a case of Chateau Lafite 1982 cost about £300 then and is now worth about £25,000! The cost of litigation is still rising but there are moves to stem the rise which may well be successful and technology will play its part particularly as the cost continues to fall.

Lord Justice Jackson may not get his Big Bang in 2012 but I am not betting on a whimper either.