Presiding judge: His Honour Judge Nicholas Chambers QC
Phillip Howell-Richardson, senior partner in Morgan Cole’s commercial dispute resolution department in Cardiff, is a keen exponent of the new court, not least because he has been involved from the start.
Explaining some of its history, he relates that when the now Lord Justice Thomas was leader of the Wales and Chester circuit, he took a great interest in boosting the region and did a lot to “cook up local support” for a Mercantile Court in Cardiff. “From a Welsh perspective, with the new devolved government and new assembly, the feeling was that all the institutions should be fully present, so the Mercantile Court fitted perfectly. Also, if you are going to have a financial centre here in south Wales, there was a glaring omission in the legal network – now that has been solved,” he says.
Nicholas Chambers QC, formerly of Brick Court Chambers, was duly appointed the first presiding judge in Cardiff’s new Mercantile Court and he appears to be proving an asset to the region. “He’s got a refreshing attitude and he has a clear and cost conscious approach,” says Jim Percival, partner in the commercial disputes resolution team at Edwards Geldard. “He works in cooperation with the professions and makes himself available to be part of the local legal community.”
Howell-Richardson says: “It’s not easy to find a judge who is of the right quality to make a brand new court work, but so far he is making a good impression. He is capable, effective and has a fairly dry sense of humour.” Of the Cardiff court itself, Percival says: “It’s a refreshing development to have it here and we intend to use it a lot.”
According to Howell-Richardson, local businesspeople are “remarkably docile” about the new court but administrators, politicians and lawyers are all keen. And as Percival points out: “Anything that’s going to reduce the overall cost of an action will be welcomed by clients.”