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Civil Litigation Section

This is the future

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  • Tony-Guise

Tony Guise provides a taster of what to expect at his session at the Section spring conference on 21 April, on the future of the civil courts.

The pace of change in reforming the civil justice system has never seen so many consultations and proposals emanate from government. Driven by the need for relentless reduction in costs, the government looks increasingly for quick fixes that can bring lower base costs.

At my talk to the Civil Litigation Section’s spring conference on 21 April, I will share my personal views of how I see the future of the civil courts. A useful tweet came to me recently from Paul Nicholls, a solicitor practising in Birmingham: 

In court against a LIP with a screaming child playing on a VERY loud phone. DJ at the end of her wits. This is all too common, and the future.

This is essentially my talk, reduced to 140 characters by Mr Nicholls. The central issue for government is to effect a coherent framework of change while having no effective IT in the civil courts. Most of the £700m budget for this has been taken by the criminal justice system, which is now roiling out an impressive (whilst not perfect) system of useful IT. Meanwhile, as Lord Justice Briggs explains in his Interim Report, the Ministry of Justice is engaged in ‘blue sky thinking’ about IT for the civil justice system.

I understand some funds remain for civil justice, with which the MoJ is building a courtside-only infrastructure. The implementation of judiciary.net is a welcome development.

For the profession and litigants, the position is less promising. The solution suggested to me on 20 April 2012 by Lord Neuberger was for the profession to build a cloud-based platform to conduct civil litigation, thereby achieving massive savings and introducing efficiencies for the benefit of all. In the four years almost to the day since I spoke with the then Master of the Rolls, that platform has been built, and it strikes me that the establishment of a simple cloud-based platform for this purpose is essential if we are to progress to ODR and other developments.

In my talk, I also address the practical disconnect between proposals and practice, with particular regard to fixed recoverable costs and the new digital bill of costs. I hope to see you there.

Tony Guise is a director of GUISE Solicitors. He will also be speaking at the LegalEx conference in London on Wednesday, 11 May on the advantages of running litigation on cloud-based platforms (http://www.legalex.co.uk/theatres/lawsociety/).

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