An influential magic circle partner today makes a public call for a reduction in oral hearings to reform a legal system which he says has returned to the ‘dark days’ described in Dickens’ Bleak House.

Nigel Boardman, partner at Slaughter and May, says lawyers should engage in helping to create ‘a vibrant and fair legal marketplace, in which the law assists business rather than impeding it’.

Writing in the Financial Times, Boardman calls for:

  • An end to reliance on oral hearings ‘which date from a time when most people could not read’. Instead, he proposes adopting the German practice of resolving commercial disputes in which a judge relies mainly on written submissions.
  • Reform of civil litigation to reduce the requirement for disclosure. Parties should have to produce only those documents on which their case relies, rather than any document that may be relevant.
  • Simplification of company law, for example relating to rights issues.
  • A simpler tax code, which today ‘many of the best brains in Britain are devoted to understanding’.

Boardman concedes that these are ‘not issues lawyers can resolve alone… However the legal profession – which has undeniably benefited from the undue complexity or corporate regulation – must now do more to shape and promote a fundamental reform of business law’.