Jackson reforms a ‘serious risk’ to justice, says Law Society

Topics: Costs, fees and funding,Dispute resolution,Law Society activity,Personal injury & clinical negligence,Litigation

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Civil litigation reforms implemented last year pose a risk of injustice to clients and a serious reputational risk for solicitors, the Law Society has said.

In a scathing response to the Civil Justice Council’s consultation on the first year of the Jackson reforms, the Society said changes have proved inconsistent, time-consuming and costly.

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Members have experienced difficulty in getting clients to authorise agreements of budgets and in some cases a ‘lack of interest’ from the judiciary in budgeting at costs management conferences, it says.

Its response has come as one law firm, PI specialist Thompsons, said the reforms have created a ‘climate of fear’ and made cross-party agreements more difficult.

The Society said a number of firms may be at risk of claims for negligence in the light of sanctions imposed for failure to comply and there is a ‘significant danger’ indemnity insurance premiums will increase for all firms this year.

Other causes for concern are that courts now place administration over access to justice, an increased risk of satellite litigation and damage to the UK’s reputation for international dispute resolution.

The Society said: ‘The climate of litigation has changed. Co-operation between solicitors on opposing sides is breaking down as no one can trust anyone not to take the slightest point. 

‘It is not putting it too high to warn that the reputation of British justice for fairness is now at very serious risk indeed as a result.’

Budgeting has led to ‘significant front-loading’ of costs – both the costs of the budget process itself and because solicitors may delay issuing proceedings to avoid control by costs budgets in respect to pre-issue costs.

The Society said more case management conferences are being listed, putting considerable strain on court resources and creating delays in getting hearings. Many solicitors have also suggested that the judiciary should receive additional training in budgeting and the guidance for ‘good practice’ should be published.

Law firms are also experiencing difficulty in explaining litigation funding to clients.

The Society response adds: ‘The sheer volume of information which needs to be provided, together with the very complicated nature of that information, is completely baffling to most clients. 

‘Many of those clients therefore fail to grasp the risks they may be taking and the costs which they may be liable for despite the explanations, which have to be repeated several times in many cases, by their solicitors.’

Other Jackson reforms, such as the removal of recoverability of ATE insurance premiums and success fees from defendants, and the introduction of qualified one-way costs shifting (QOCS), mean parties on all sides have reservations about the new regime.

Claimants say they are struggling to find solicitors who will undertake lower-value non-RTA claims and, in most cases where they are represented, they face paying out substantial sums in legal costs.

Defendants say they are at a disadvantage with the costs budgeting requirements in personal injury claims where QOCS applies because of the relatively small chance that they will actually recover any costs.

They also state claimant solicitors are now more likely to delay the issue of proceedings until they have everything prepared so as to comply with any subsequent timetable.

Defendants are then faced with a strict court timetable in order to prepare documents and statements and this is causing considerable concern for them and their solicitors.

Readers' comments (14)

  • The only way to resolve this situation is for new and sensible rules to be introduced and for judges to refuse to follow the utterly ridiculous decision of Mitchel and all that has followed. The courts are overwhelmed with budgeting, cases are not being progressed in court because of the delays caused, lawyers are frantically checking orders and fearing strike out at any moment. PII premiums will be huge on renewal and many law firms and lawyers will simply abandon the profession.

    This situation is an embarrassment to a system of law once held in high esteem.. The rules were put in place by those that have not a clue about running a practice and have no knowledge or concern for either the Claimant or Defendant.

    The only realistic option now for litigants is to abandon the court system and to instead endeavor to arbitrate in a sensible manner

    Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
    --Martin Luther King Jr.

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  • Annon @ 4.59pm - spot on. Alas I think those in the ivory towers at the CA couldn't care less about havoc they are presently wreaking.

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  • Well all I can say Lord Woolf what a waste of your time Sir!! Access to true Justice does not exist anymore!! RIP ....... God Save the Insurer

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  • Strikes me that we now have a very undesirable situation where there's very little justice to be had when you're in the litigation system, and very little access to justice when you're not.

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  • Respect for the judiciary and for the decisions they take is intrinsic to the provision of a properly functioning system of justice, and yet we have reached a point where our judiciary are now daily regarded with disrespect and contempt. It is not merely worry about the age old phenomenon of 'Judgitis disease' ; it has progressed far beyond that. Judgitis was about arrogance and pre-judgement. We are now at a point where the competence of the Court of Appeal is properly being brought seriously into question, and in particular the ability to adequately foresee the consequences of ill conceived decisions.

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  • Quite correct, Stephen. And doesn't it seem odd that a barrister can be fined for being 'high handed and unprofessional', although having done nothing else wrong, when judges are high handed and unprofessional most days, some every day, and others all day and every day. And all that with impunity!

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  • ....then there is the farcical position on the non workable system of Damages Based Agreements that v few will touch while there is such uncertainty about how they work. The Jackson Reforms have simply led to chaos and no winners, just losers.

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  • And why on earth did whoever it was (Woolf, I believe) abolish the right to apply to be non-suited? AT could have applied for such an order and just started again. Yet another change from the pre-1975 regime which appears to have served no useful purpose!

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  • Any researcher is invited to investigate claim no: QB/2013/0164 how injustice was done to the innocent party bh strike out in the name of case management reforms simply benefiting and enriching historic defaulter of the court orders

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  • Dear UK Solicitors let us break open the cages of Law Society SRA bureaucracy who are sucking our blood and set ourselves free. What we get from paying for PC, authorisation annually other than paying fabulous salaries of staff who have enslaved us for decades. Their affairs need to be investigated thoroughly most especially huge funds and the use if any for the betterment of doners. A pressure group is required to be launched to probe the Law Society and SRA

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