The future of litigation

 The Lawyer’s nomination of the top 10 cases of the year has always been a fascinating mirror of commercial activity; hence the messy Russian oligarch dispute, a law firm prepack administration claim and the most important libel case for some time, the appeal of a Mr Justice Eady judgment.

And, with accidental but wholly beautiful timing, The Lawyer’s top 10 coincides with the publication of the long-awaited Jackson review of civil justice costs this week.

A decade after Woolf, there are reforms to be made, chief among them being a fully resourced and supported judiciary. But that costs money, so we can consign that to the wishlist.

Given that dispute resolution has been the ­backbone of most law firms’ business this year, it shouldn’t just be litigators who are interested in the Jackson report; over the past five years fees ­generated by the top 10 litigation practices in the UK have leapt by 50 per cent, from £930m to £1.4bn. That is an expanding market, and one that validates London’s central place as a jurisdiction in which to do business. So just watch: Jackson is going to be a big story across the non-legal business media (and The Lawyer will, of course, be devoting plenty of space online and in print to the reaction).

Yet it is absolutely absurd that in a profession teeming with educated professionals, in which the concept of thought leadership has become so ­valorised, that no one has really taken the high ground on litigation costs. We’ve been contacted by rafts of lawyers lining up to comment on the ­implications of the Jackson report this week, but when it comes to aligning their own brands with eye-catching models of business, litigators haven’t seized the day.

There are some exceptions: Addleshaw Goddard and Mishcon de Reya have embraced litigation funding, while Pinsents has outsourced low-level litigation due diligence to South Africa. But on the whole the opportunity to prove to clients that lawyers actually care about keeping legal costs down has been wasted. A little bit of proactivity could go a long way.