Falconer: tardy litigators will be fired

The Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer today (31 May) outlined plans that will see lawyers who cause delays to court cases replaced.

The move comes ahead of the post-BCCI working party’s interim report to the Commercial Court Users’ Committee in June. Mr Justice Tomlinson’s BCCI verdict labelled the behaviour of some of the lawyers as “unattractive”, singling out Essex Court Chambers’ Gordon Pollock QC’s 80-day opening speech as “wasted”.

Falconer said the move would apply where a law firm may not have the capacity to cope with a case or where representing more than one client in a trial might lead to a conflict of interest.

It will apply to what are termed “very high cost cases”, which are expected to last 41 days or more, such as terrorism or complex frauds.

The new measures will give trial judges the ability to refer cases to the Legal Services Commission, which could then ask the defendant to find a different lawyer.

The working party, chaired by Mr Justice Aikens, has been looking into proposals of how to better use court sanctions by judges in a bid to ward off escalating legal costs in large commercial litigation.

Lord Falconer said: “Trials that take too long not only reduce public confidence in the criminal justice system, but also cost the taxpayer money.”