Established: January 1994
Presiding judge: His Honour Judge Raymond Jack QC
Bristol's Mercantile Court has perhaps the best reputation of all. It's success is largely due to the ability of Judge Jack, whose judgments are repeatedly upheld on appeal. He has a reputation for being a down-to-earth, interventionist and reliable judge. His impartiality and lack of deference to members of the bar makes him particularly popular with solicitors.
Osborne Clarke OWA's head of litigation Clare Robinson says: "He's fairly sensible as a judge. The strengths [of the Mercantile Court] are clearly that you get Judge Jack to deal with all applications and he gets to know your case. You know who's going to make a decision rather than leaving it to district judges."
But the court's popularity and the fact that there is only one judge means that the time saved by listing in the Mercantile Court rather than the Queen's Bench Division in London is less than expected.
Robinson says: "One of its weaknesses is that you don't get things on as quickly as I think was expected. At the start people were talking about trials within six months." She says that instead, it is generally closer to a year before cases are heard – still a six month saving on the Queen's Bench. But this has not deterred Robinson from listing in Bristol. "We are rarely issuing in the Queen's Bench," she says.
Supporters of the court believe it would benefit from another judge. However, they also accept that district judges are much cheaper and are not sure whether there is currently a sufficient workload to warrant the additional cost.