The new Business and Property Courts created in October 2017 aim to cut costs and time for lawyers by setting up specialist courts in various regions of the UK. This will enable cases to be heard outside London thereby reducing waiting times.
The new courts have three main objectives:
- To reduce the delay of cases going to trial
- To provide the most appropriate judge for a trial
- To utilise modern technology to deliver an efficient and effective service
The courts are divided into specialist courts for parties to choose from depending on the nature of their case, for example, the Technology and Construction Court and the Commercial Court. The aim is to give parties more freedom of choice when issuing proceedings and in a more convenient location. The Lord Chancellor, David Lidington, further commented that the Courts would address new opportunities presented by the globalisation of legal services, especially with the planned introduction of the ability to issue proceedings electronically in 2018.
The development of the Business and Property Courts also aims to enhance the global standing of the English judicial system by phasing out obscure and antiquated names for dispute resolution cases. The name ‘Business and Property Courts’ aims to give a user-friendly umbrella term for national and international dispute resolution jurisdictions. As a single umbrella this will ensure that both domestic and International business disputes are dealt with irrespective of where the dispute is heard. The Business and Property courts will also benefit from the better deployment of specialist judges . It is hoped that both domestic and international parties will continue to seek to resolve disputes in the UK irrespective of whether they are heard in London or in the regions. This is particularly important in light of Brexit and its potential impact on cross-jurisdictional cases.
Proposed changes in rules on disclosure
Hand in hand with the development of the Business and Property courts is a review of the rules on disclosure in civil cases. In October 2016 the Law Society found that there had been insufficient use of the Civil Procedure Rules regarding disclosure where parties usually opted for ‘Standard Disclosure’. Additionally, the existing rules on disclosure were drafted to cater for predominantly paper-based disclosure and so are not well suited to modern-day litigation where, with the proliferation of emails and other electronic data, the use of technology to assist with the disclosure review process is essential. Therefore, the current (and subsequent) changes contain a mandatory set of rules to structure and guide discussions around the use of technology. Essentially, it is proposed that standard disclosure be abolished and replaced with a new concept of “basic disclosure” – for which no search is required – and “extended disclosure” where appropriate.