A frequently expressed concern of litigators is the shortage of judges and the time it takes to get a case heard. Despite recent improvements in the lists, what is also frustrating is the delay experienced in obtaining an appointment for an interlocutory application before a Queen's Bench Master.
A carefully formuIated "offensive" strategy aimed at applying pressure to the other side by means of appropriate interlocutory orders and adherence to time limits for the provision of witness statements and expert evidence and so on can be thwarted by a recalcitrant opposition aided by the lists.
Every experienced practitioner will use the system to their client's advantage but while the practice whereby a party may ignore a time limit provided for in a first order on the basis that it will be several weeks before the other side can apply for a final or unless order may help individual litigants, it is questionable wheth-er it serves the interests of litigants generally or enhances the court's reputation.
Even assuming that the master takes a firm line the other side may have gained a significant tactical advantage. The client will query why his solicitor cannot take more effective action.
If a party wishing to "get on" with an action were rewarded with the swift and effective support of the court, litigants would ultimately get the message that the scope for "messing around" had been severely curtailed. This might encourage them to enter into meaningful negotiations earlier and save court time.
Carol Mulcahy is a partner with Paisner & Co