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OFFICIAL Referee Judge Bowsher QC is running a pilot scheme to hear summonses by telephone.
The scheme, which was suggested by Lord Woolf, is only available to solicitors whose case is in the list of the Official Referee.
To comply, all the parties have to agree to be heard over the telephone and at least one of the solicitor participants must be based more than 30 miles from London.
It only applies to summons expected to take fewer than 15 minutes. Participants are allotted half an hour to set up a conference line and submit the summons.
Cambridge firm Mills & Reeve has already taken advantage of the project. Litigation solicitor Andrew Dodsworth says it has saved a lot of time and money.
"Previously I would have had to come to London for the hearing or instruct London agents. By eliminating the charges for travelling and waiting time I estimate that the client is saving 90 per cent of the original cost."
Now, clients are only billed for the time and the cost of the phone call.
Solicitors who wish to make use of the scheme can obtain a note detailing its procedure from: The Clerk to His Honour Judge Bowsher QC, St Dunstan's House, 113 Fetter Lane, London