Mr Justice Colman has revealed that shipping litigation specialists Ince & Co and Clyde & Co carry out half of the work in the Commercial Court
The announcement comes at an opportune time for the two firms because a special Commercial Court working party has been set up to collaborate with the Lord Chancellor's Department to promote the UK Commercial Court in foreign jurisdictions. Judge Colman made the statement to a subcommittee of the Commercial Court's user group, at which he also highlighted the high usage by foreigners of the court. It is understood that 60 per cent of Commercial Court users are non-British. Some lawyers argued that this is not surprising, because the Commercial Court handles predominantly maritime, insurance and commodity litigation, all of which Ince and Clyde handle. However, other firms such as Richards Butler and Holman Fenwick & Willan also do this work. The private announcement coincides with a report from shipping firm Jackson Parton that there has been a significant drop in the number of shipping-related reported cases. During the period of the survey - 1992-1996 and 1997-2002 - the number of Ince's reported cases dropped respectively from 99 to 47 and Clyde's from 110 to 74. Similar drops were experienced across all the shipping firms bar Holman Fenwick & Willan, which witnessed an increase from 43 to 50, Ben-tleys Stokes & Lowless (from 10 to 13) and Jackson Parton (12 to 21). Richards Butler dropped from 53 to 26 and Clifford Chance from 25 to 14. One partner attributed this to a shift of "bread and butter" shipping defence cases to smaller firms. "Meanwhile, there's a trend for bigger firms to get higher-quality work, which tends not to be litigated or takes longer," he said.