Alternative dispute resolution will help promote the legal sector internationally as the UK prepares to leaves the EU, justice minister Sir Oliver Heald has said.
Heald told a fringe event at the Conservative Party Conference yesterday that London is already a ‘world-leading centre’ for arbitration, adding: ‘As we leave the EU, it will be important that the legal sector… is looking at opportunities to forward its business across the world.
‘I think there’s no question that ADR will form part of that as it does in our internal domestic civil justice system.’
Noting that pre-action protocols have already led to the use of ADR in many cases, Heald pointed out that it is also possible for adverse costs orders to be made in court proceedings if ADR has not been considered.
Referencing comments made by Lord Justice Briggs at a mediation symposium last month, Heald said: ‘I think it’s a very fair statement to say we’re trying to take the “A” out of “ADR” and have a system of dispute resolution that includes the courts, of course, but perhaps as the first recourse the idea that people might resolve their disputes using processes such as mediation and consultation, and arbitration.’
Digitisation of the court system provides an opportunity to explain conciliation and mediation options as people file their case, Heald said.
However, he acknowledged that the courts will provide a better forum for certain cases.
He said: ‘You see the kind of complex, commercial cases you get at the Rolls Building, which is very well prepared to do [them]. The fact that you get an outcome with teeth, the ability to use a High Court judge to deal with a case - that can be an advantage.’
Henley MP John Howell, chair of the all party parliamentary group on ADR, stressed that there will continue to be those ‘wanting their day in court’.
Howell recalled: ‘I was asked to sit with [High Court judge] Sir Robin Knowles in the commercial court recently on a case which should never have been brought to law. It involved another lawyer, a foreign lawyer, who was bringing his case. The reason he was there was because he wanted his day in court. We’re never going to get away from people wanting their day in court.’
ADR is not necessarily cheaper than litigation, Howell stressed.
He said: ‘There is a great impetus to use ADR because it is perceived to be cheaper. Actually I don’t think it is cheaper. I think that misunderstands the nature of the costs that are involved and how the costs are organised.’