Client survey finds support for Woolf

COMMERCIAL court users have backed the bulk of Lord Woolf's proposals for civil justice reform but argued against plans to force parties to disclose their instructions to experts.

A survey of 35 Simmons & Simmons' clients and contacts, including banks, insurance companies, financial institutions and corporations, showed there was support in principle for most proposals.

But, in line with the majority of the legal profession, respondents questioned the Government's commitment to provide adequate funding and resources to see changes through.

Those surveyed agreed with Woolf on his plans for a three-tier structure of case management, although some argued the monetary limit for fast-track claims should stand at £50,000 rather than the planned £10,000.

But the area of the interim report which attracted most comment was Woolf's plans for expert evidence.

Respondents said disclosed instructions were unlikely to be as complete and said privileged status should be maintained.

"It was the overall impact of Lord Woolf's proposals concerning expert evidence which caused greatest concern to the majority of the business users of the civil justice system whom we surveyed," says the report.

"The proposal that parties' instructions to their respective experts should be disclosed will not, in our view, work in practice in commercial cases."