The third anniversary of Jackson LJ’s landmark civil justice reforms offers another opportunity to ask if he has been unfairly traduced by his critics – many of them outspoken.
As we report this week, lawyers are adapting to the demands the reforms have made on budgeting and costs. In personal injury, claimant experience of the ‘armour’ provided by qualified one-way costs shifting has generated positive feedback so far.
Where the reforms are said to be failing, Jackson’s supporters have one powerful riposte. The judge stressed that the proposals were interdependent – a ‘coherent package of interlocking reforms’, as he put it. Many problems that have arisen stem from hasty and piecemeal implementation, together with inadequate training. As Law Society civil justice committee chair David Marshall laments, ‘policymakers are constantly changing things before you can work out whether they actually work’.
In that light one can perhaps level a more justified criticism at the judge. His scorched-earth proposals for extending fixed recoverable costs to all cases worth up to £250,000 – which would do away with budgeting altogether in most cases – are surely premature. The 2013 reforms are still a work in progress; damages-based agreements, for example, have not yet seen the light of day in any real sense.
As APIL’s Brett Dixon argues, ‘budgeting needs to be given more room to breathe before deciding whether it’s dead or alive’.