The Woolf reforms have failed to deliver the cuts in litigation and costs that they were designed to achieve, says a new report.
Four out of five FTSE 1000 companies surveyed believe that levels of litigation have not been reduced by the reforms, while three in five say that they have not saved money when suing or being sued. One in five say costs have gone up.
Some county courts have failed to fully adopt the reforms and were prevented from doing so by lack of investment and poor staffing.
Andrew Manning Cox, litigation partner at Wragge & Co, which carried out the research, says: “There needs to be more investment in the courts. Each judge should have his own PC, which I don’t think is the case at present. Money should be put into IT training, and there should be more judges.”
Half the businesses surveyed are insufficiently informed about the reforms and only 16 per cent thought that their legal costs overall have dropped.
Even with the strong economy, usually a lean time for litigators, there has been no significant drop in firms’ income from court actions.
While the majority of businesses welcome the reforms – nine out of 10 say that the measures encourage parties to resolve disputes quickly – a similar number thought more management time was being spent on the litigation process.
Lord Irvine’s parliamentary secretary David Lock says: “I welcome the research. It shows the extent to which the culture of dispute resolution has been changed by the Woolf reforms. The Lord Chancellor’s Department will be undertaking its own research into the reforms but the early indications are highly encouraging.”