Lord Woolf's 'Access to justice': the profession replies

The Commercial Court welcomes Lord Woolf's report on access to civil justice and its emphasis upon the advantages of case management.

In terms of the report, the vast majority of cases tried in the Commercial Court come within the category of “heavier cases on the multi-track”.

They have for some years been the subject of case management procedures much of the kind that has been recommended by Lord Woolf for introduction across the board of civil litigation.

In the Commercial Court guide, such procedures, including the early identification of issues and their resolution at an early stage without full trial, are provided for.

The court has for some time also nominated particular judges to particular cases and encouraged the parties to explore the possibilities for alternative dispute resolution.

The specific recommendations of Lord Woolf which would be most likely to impact upon the work of the court and to require some further development in its procedures are:

Restrictions upon the process of discovery;

Closer control over the employment of experts;

The requirement for solicitors to inform the parties and the court of the level of costs reached at key stages;

The ability of the court to review a case, at the behest of the defendant or the court, on the ground that the case has no realistic prospect of success;

The “docketing” of all cases to a particular judge or two-man team of judges;

Increased use of technology including the equipping of judges with personal computers and the provision of facilities for video and telephone conferencing.

In all of these respects, the Commercial Court looks forward to assisting the progress of the proposed reforms. In doing so, it will work closely in conjunction with the Commercial Court Users Committee which has long proved its worth, both as a sounding board and a source of ideas, for the procedures which the Commercial Court has developed as part of its service to the commercial community.