Manchester set leads way on Woolf

MANCHESTER IP chambers Lancaster Buildings has stolen a march on its rivals by producing a guide to the new court rules that will underpin the Woolf reforms.

The 38-page guide, which is being sent to all the chambers' clients and major law firms in the Manchester region, has been written by head of chambers John Lambert.

He has drawn together the various draft rules and practice directions published by the Lord Chancellor's Department in a bid to give practitioners the best guide to how the system will operate.

He also advises on preparing for the new regime.

The new rules are not expected to be finalised until December – just four months before Woolf's new three-track system for civil litigation is due to be introduced. When the final rules are published, the chambers will post changes on its Internet site.

The tight timetable for the introduction of the reforms has been repeatedly attacked by lawyers and lawyers' groups, including the Law Society. The society has staged a series of roadshows to explain the reforms to solicitors.

But the Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine, insists the April deadline can be met – even though, as The Lawyer revealed in June, only some of the IT systems needed to run the three-track system will be ready.

Lancaster Buildings, founded in 1997, believes it is the first chambers to provide clients with such detailed briefing on new civil court rules. It is also planning to hold a seminar in Manchester on the reforms.

Lambert said the project would help his chambers and its clients prepare for the reforms. But he said it was also a useful way to remind law firms that although the set specialised in IP, its members were also commercial litigation experts.

Robert Roper, head of IP at Manchester firm Cobbetts and a Lancaster Buildings client, welcomed the initiative and said he was hoping the chambers would be able to make a presentation to his staff.

He praised the set as "the most proactive I have ever come across" and said Manchester had not traditionally had a strong IP chambers.