Much heartache could have been avoided in the reform of civil justice had more notice been taken of our experience of everyday logjams.

No one could challenge the prodigious amount of work that Jackson LJ put into the reforms that bear his name. While all of these had intellectual justification, arguably what they (and the Woolf reforms that preceded them) lacked was the discipline of common, practical experience of the everyday. 

Step forward the Shorter Trials Scheme, vindicated by the first successful case of National Bank of Abu Dhabi v BP Oil International [2016] EWHC 2892 (Comm) and [2018] EWCA Civ 14. This is not a scheme generated by Lord Jackson but appears to have been something created and implemented by a committee of solicitors and/or similar High Court practitioners. These proposals have now been incorporated into the CPR at practice direction 51N. They appear to provide, at least in certain cases, effective litigation of less complexity and hence less cost; an outcome not always achieved with the various Jackson iterations.

Judges may know a lot, but they are not strong on the commonplace. The Civil Justice Committee of the Law Society produced a report entitled Streamlining the Multi-Track some years ago. This too addressed some of the major logjams of modern litigation and put forward a number of straightforward cost/time-saving mechanisms. Much heartache and a good deal of delphic ingenuity in seeking to resolve some of the more obvious conundrums in the Jackson reforms, such as reasonable but disproportionate costs, might have been avoided if more note had been taken of this document.

Mike Williams, former member of the Law Society Council and Law Society Civil Justice Committee, Birmingham