Permit me to illustrate CMF Langdon’s thoughtful critique of Woolf with an instance.

I am a pensions lawyer dealing largely with corporate finance transactions, trust deeds and regulatory compliance, all well clear of the courts. Six years ago I had the most highly paid job of my whole period of practice to date. I was instructed to advise the husband’s solicitors about the pension aspects of a divorce.

The work was very highly paid, and rather unsatisfactory, because the litigation solicitors on both sides could not even blow their noses without running to the court for an order, and the many orders that were made had only scant relevance to the pension issues or the practicalities of dealing with them, despite the explanations provided by me and the wife’s pension lawyer. The issue itself was not complicated (but the litigation process was) and the amount at stake was not particularly large.

If this had arisen on Monday in a corporate transaction, the principals would have agreed terms on Thursday and the lawyers done the paperwork by the close of play on Friday. But thanks to the process of litigation and case (mis)management, the case dragged on for over six months and cost more than 10 times what it would have cost to have settled the difference without the court’s interference.

If I may be permitted a second illustration, the next time I advised about a dispute, the defendant’s insurer, although the defendant was clearly negligent, refused to discuss the merits and strung out the pre-litigation protocol process with the evident aim of exhausting the claimant’s resources.

Pre-Woolf, the plaintiff (as he was then called) would have issued the writ first and worried about the detail later, and stood a good chance of getting the defendant to the negotiating table before his resources were exhausted.

Roderick Ramage, Stafford