Reforming Civil Litigation: Bar Council Working Group publishes recommendations

25 March 2013

The Bar Council, which represents barristers in England and Wales, has today published a discussion document on 'Reforming civil litigation', which reflects the recommendations of a Working Group including the chairs of the Chancery Bar Association, Commercial Bar Association and the Technology and Construction Bar Association.

The Group was set up and chaired, in early 2012, by the Immediate Past Chairman of the Bar, Michael Todd QC. 

The recommendations come shortly after the Chancellor of the High Court commenced a review of the practice and procedure of the Chancery Division.

The Group's key recommendations are: 

  • All cases should be docketed to ensure consistency and effectiveness of case management decisions

  • Case management conferences, conducted by the trial judge, should take place no later than the close of pleadings, at which point the parties should be required to identify the issues to be decided and the evidence required, thus limiting disclosure and the preparation of evidence

  • Pre-action protocols should be abolished as, by formalising the pre-action process, they add to the length and expense of proceedings, and the emphasis instead should be on detailed pleadings in compliance with the rules

  • The CPR rules for witness statements should be abolished and replaced by rules for witness summaries, covering a number of specified areas, and subject to the judge's discretion to exclude oral evidence or direct witness statements

  • A single, electronic case management administration system should be implemented across the jurisdictions of the Rolls Building, in order to improve the efficiency of (and time spent on) both case management conferences and docketing, and

  • There should be only one procedural guide for the Rolls Building.

The Group's findings have been sent to the senior judiciary.

Michael Todd QC,Immediate Past Chairman of the Bar, said:

"Having attended a speech, delivered by the then Lord Chancellor, the Rt. Hon. Kenneth Clarke QC MP, his reference to the need "to modernise the UK's 'old-fashioned' and 'bureaucratic' civil and criminal justice system" resonated with a desire which the majority of the Bar has, to improve access to justice by cutting the cost of litigation and speeding up dispute resolution, wherever possible.

"We hope that the recommendations which we have put forward for discussion provide a sensible starting point to continue to improve and evolve civil litigation in this jurisdiction.

"The Bar Council is playing a crucial role in the Ministry of Justice's UK Legal Services Plan for Growth, which was launched recently. As part of ensuring that London remains one of the world's most attractive dispute resolution centres, we have to ensure that we keep developing our civil litigation system to ensure it remains relevant to the needs of its consumers.

"I am grateful to my successor, Maura McGowan QC, for her support of this Group."

ENDS 

Notes to editors

1. For further information, please contact the Bar Council Press Office on 020 7222 2525 or Press@BarCouncil.org.uk.

2. Reforming Civil Litigation: a discussion document, can be found here.

3. The Bar Council represents barristers in England and Wales. It promotes: 

  • The Bar's high quality specialist advocacy and advisory services

  • Fair access to justice for all

  • The highest standards of ethics, equality and diversity across the profession, and

  • The development of business opportunities for barristers at home and abroad.

The General Council of the Bar is the Approved Regulator of the Bar of England and Wales. It discharges its regulatory functions through the independent Bar Standards Board.