Inadequate facilities are driving Commercial Court cases to France

A senior High Court judge has said that parties are increasingly likely to take their disputes to French courts rather than the Commercial Court because of its poor facilities.

Speaking at the Commercial Litigators’ Forum, hosted by Herbert Smith, Mr Justice Colman said that Paris’ Tribune de Commerce may become a more attractive option for parties with English law disputes. “Facilities at the Commercial Court are very bad, cramped and have insufficient room,” he said. “There’s a real need for something to be done. There is a concern that France might get some of the work [which traditionally goes to the Commercial Court] because of its state-of-the-art facilities.”

This is of particular concern to the UK Government, which it is estimated receives £800m in invisible earnings from users of the court. The Commercial Bar Association is on a marketing drive among European law firms and companies to attract work to the Commercial Court.

A survey carried out by the Litigators’ Forum revealed that 80 per cent of litigators in England believe

that a lack of investment in the Commercial Court will lead to loss of business. Only half of those surveyed believe there should be a public-private partnership to fund the rejuvenation of the court.

The survey also said that all but one lawyer surveyed thought that the quality of English judges was the most important factor in attracting foreign cases to the Commercial Court.

SJ Berwin litigation partner Hilton Mervis said: “What this shows is that there is a universal admiration of English judges supported by anecdotal evidence from foreign lawyers who regard them as the best in the world. But without increased investment in the Commercial Court, this will be undermined.”