At the beginning of the week the Rolls Building, the new home of the Admiralty and Commercial Court and the Technology and Construction Court, tentatively opened for business.
Of the 31 courts inside the Fetter Lane building just Court 26 was in operation, as Russian oligarch battle Berezovsky v Abramovich got under way.
The prospect of Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich being sued over intimidation claims by his arch rival Boris Berezovsky was enough to draw at least 19 barristers, a small army of lawyers and the press pack.
That shouldn’t have been much of a problem. After all, Court 26 is one of the Rolls Building’s three so-called ’super courts’, designed to attract major multi-party multinational disputes.
But it has not all been plain sailing.
One clerk suggests the super courts are in fact smaller than those in the Royal Courts of Justice (RCJ). Another gripe is that in spite of a huge investment in technology to allow online filing of papers the system appears to be failing, with clerks still preferring to deliver papers to court in person.
That said, with the court filled to bursting and the lack of a wifi connection curtailing all Twitter activity, there were certainly some teething problems when Berezovsky v Abramovich began. Even Abramovich’s legal army, all looking glam enough to represent one of the world’s richest men, had trouble finding seats.
But with Berezovsky and Abramovich both present in court, there weren’t too many complaints from the press corps. And with Abramovich’s heavies checking the room for potential threats before he, Berezovsky and their entourages made their entrances, there was plenty of drama for the Rolls Building’s first hearing.
After a brief lull to allow Gloster J to organise the seating arrangements, proceedings finally got underway, but it wasn’t long before the case hit another problem.
In his opening statement One Essex Court’s Laurence Rabinowitz QC, representing Berezovsky, referred Gloster J to his filings; rather than turn to a lever-arch file as she would have done in the past, the judge turned to a large collection of computer screens, allegedly to find the required file at the touch of a button. Except that the computer malfunctioned and proceedings had to be stopped to allow a clerk to get to grips with it.
We have the judges, we have the lawyers and the clients, but when it comes to whether the basic facilities in the Rolls Building are satisfactory the jury, it would seem, is still out.