There has in recent years been a remarkable shift in the way that claims are funded and conducted in the Courts.
In 2008, sparked by concern amongst the Senior Judiciary about the costs of civil justice in England & Wales, Lord Justice Jackson undertook a detailed review of litigation procedure. His report took two years to finalise, extended to 557 pages and shook the litigation world. Its findings were largely accepted, however, and in April 2013 ‘The Jackson Reforms’ as they are now known were implemented by The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (‘LASPO’). Fourteen months down the line and the consequences of the reforms are still manifest and controversial.
So, what do the changes mean for your business?
Firstly, funding. No-one wants to litigate but if forced down that route you will no doubt be concerned about the cost. LASPO changes the way that solicitors can charge for litigation. Successful parties to litigation can no longer recover Conditional Fee ‘success’ fees and protective insurance premiums from a losing opponent and must bear the, often substantial, cost themselves. Insurance premiums are often prohibitive, but without the comfort of cover which protects against paying an opponent’s costs, litigation may be very risky. While US style Damages-Based Agreements (‘DBAs’) have been introduced they are considered risky and are generally not favoured by litigators.
Secondly, changes to the Civil Procedure Rules (which govern the conduct of litigation in the English Courts) – which were intended to minimise delay, save costs and improve access to justice – have caused a storm. Gone are the days when solicitors could agree reasonable extensions and seek relief for non-compliance with Court Orders. These days even a slight delay could lead to your claim being struck out or your costs recovery being severely restricted even if you win.
Thirdly is the introduction of costs budgeting across the board; a judge will now approve at an early stage in the case a stringent budget in respect of the future costs of the case. Parties who exceed their budget face penalties.
The consequence of all of this is that litigation can be a minefield and it is more important than ever to ensure that your claim is handled by specialist solicitors who have the appropriate experience and knowledge to guide you through to a successful conclusion with minimal disruption and cost to your business.
Wolferstans are pleased to announce that they have formed a new specialist Disputes and Litigation team jointly headed by experienced litigators Rebecca Mabelle and Catherine Canham. Between them they have over 25 years specialist litigation experience gained in the public and private sectors. The team works closely with our commercial practices to offer complete support to our business clients. We have the experience and expertise to advise on a range of issues including sale of goods claims, business and agricultural property disputes, landlord and tenant disputes, commercial and contractual disputes, debt recovery, professional negligence claims, licensing and planning advice and many other niche areas of law.