The High Court judge responsible for implementing the Jackson civil litigation reforms has made two speeches seeking to allay lawyers’ fears about the reforms’ impact.
Speaking to the Commercial Litigation Association annual conference, Mr Justice Ramsey urged more ‘hot-tubbing’ of expert witnesses to improve the costs management of civil cases and speed up the trial process.
Hot-tubbing requires the expert witnesses for both parties to give evidence at the same time. This ensures their contrasting opinions are quickly made clear to the judge and the case can then move on without unnecessary delay.
Ramsey also urged litigators to keep written evidence and disclosures to a minimum, saying normally ‘not more than three facts are required to decide any case’, and that so few ‘smoking guns’ were revealed by disclosure that each one costs around £60m to turn up.
He said that rigorously following costs management procedures would encourage the parties to focus on the key issues in dispute early on and encourage settlement at an early stage.
Ramsey told the Association of Costs Lawyers annual conference that the future of third-party litigation funding was one of the ‘great questions’ of the post-Jackson era.
Ramsey said there should be more certainty in the market in the next three years, which will give investors confidence to take on funding more cases than at present. ‘Funders should be able to make a decent profit and in effect transfer legal aid from the public sector to the private sector,’ he said.
Ramsey said the future was not necessarily bleak for costs lawyers, despite costs budgeting meaning there may be fewer standard costs assessments. ‘Instead the expertise of costs lawyers will apply to the beginning of litigation,’ he said.
Ramsey also suggested that the decision to exempt commercial cases worth more than £2m from new costs management rules could eventually be overturned as judges look at them on a case-by-case basis.