The death of Lord Goodman and the subsequent tributes have focused on his reputation as a legal Mr Fix-it.
Without concentrating specifically on Lord Goodman and on the qualities that he possessed, we have an opportunity to reflect on what makes the perfect litigator.
Of course, there are the obvious qualities – tenacity, forcefulness, intelligence and a love of the rules of the Supreme Court.
As settlement of litigation will not always be possible or desirable, a client may just want a litigator to be tough.
The litigation may need to be pursued to the very end, perhaps to have the courts settle a point of principle once and for all. Or the parties may simply never be able to reach an agreement.
However, in my view a key asset for a good litigator is the ability to identify the parties' objectives in the dispute.
This important attribute seems not to be present in the make-up of all litigators.
If it were, we would not now be subjected to increasing demand and indeed regimentation in the direction of alternative dispute resolution.
It is often the case that the reason litigators become involved is because a dispute has got to the point where the parties have needed to demonstrate to each other their
resolve to go at least that far, or, on the other hand, have been incapable of avoiding going that far.
It should then be possible for the litigators on each side to work out, together with their clients, both what those clients and the opposing clients want or are prepared to accept.
The steps taken in the litigation can be judged against that evaluation. And, if on the opposing side there is a practical lawyer, there can be a
negotiation. The result, after short or lengthy discussion, can end up being fairer than what a court would produce.
Not all litigators can aspire to what Lord Goodman achieved by becoming fixers of his pre-eminence.
However, they can start by trying to form a sensible appreciation of what the dispute is really about.
Michael Skrein is head of commercial litigation at Richards Butler.
Health Act query to Lords
Criminal liability for safety to workers under provisions of the 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act is to go under the House of Lords microscope. Leave has been granted for an appeal against a ruling relating to a worker injured in a 1990 accident. The appeal has been brought by chlorine manufacturers Associated Octel Company. While an outside contractor was engaged in
repair work using acetone and a lamp, the lamp broke igniting the acetone fumes and injuring the worker. At Chester Crown Court in 1993 Octel was fined £60,000 for breach of the 1974 Act. That conviction was upheld by the Court of Appeal last year. Now the Law Lords are being asked to decide the status, in relation to the Act, of independent contractors in such cases.
Gay forces judgment due
High Court judgment is expected soon on the challenge to the Armed Forces' right to act against gays and lesbians. The action involves personnel from different branches of the forces, but, depending on the outcome, others are understood to be waiting in the wings ready to take similar action against the MoD.