Presiding judges: Judge Michael Kershaw QC (left) and Judge Brendan Hegarty QC
The oldest of the UK's Mercantile Courts, Manchester's backlog and popularity problems have been solved in part by the arrival several years ago of Judge Hegarty, formerly a commercial silk practising at 8 King Street chambers. Both judges have a reputation for sitting very late at night, to the extent where it is unusual to find a London silk who will appear on Friday in Manchester for fear of not being able to get home in time for dinner.
Despite a generally good impression, there is still a feeling that judgments can be somewhat strange and take rather too long to appear.
According to Pannone & Partners commercial litigation partner Richard Price, the Mercantile Court is used mainly for insurance work, with other matters going before the city's two deputy High Court judges.
According to Price one of the things clients like about the court is that with two judges there is not the fear that a single judge will be against a client from the start should one of its applications fail early on.
One of the main advantages of the court, says Michael Clavell-Bate, head of the commercial litigation team at Eversheds Manchester, is the fact that it has been using Civil Procedure Rules (CPR)-type procedures for so long that the introduction of the new CPR has not upset the court as it has elsewhere. "Case management has always been a big part of the Mercantile Court, trial judges would set directions and identify trial windows and dates from early on in the dispute," he says. "Telephone applications have been happening in the mercantile list even before CPR was introduced. The administration works very well – I can pick up the phone to the judge's clerk this week and they'll fix it there and then."
Judge Kershaw, formerly a general commercial silk at Byrom Street Chambers, is a keen IT proponent and the Court Users' Committee has been concentrating on the IT aspect in great depth.