Legal and Financial: Woolf Is a Howling Success; Law Firms Hail Litigation Reforms

Article excerpt

Twelve months on from the sweeping changes to the civil litigation system, a survey has revealed that 84 per cent of West Midland companies believe it is now better since Lord Woolf's reforms.

Law firm Edge Ellison conducted the survey to find out whether businesses were benefiting from the new rules which aim to make sure that disputes are resolved more cheaply and, if possible, without going to trial.

Judges are now keen to encourage mediation and 22 per cent of the firms surveyed had already been involved in the practice. Some said that they would require more information about the way that mediation works but 64 per cent saw mediation as a type of dispute resolution they would consider in the future.

Recent figures from the Centre for Dispute Resolution support this trend, with mediations organised by CEDR running at more than double the number in the previous year.

Some businesses still have an appetite for litigation, though.

Twenty one per cent said that they had been involved in more disputes since the new rules came into effect and 13 per cent were more likely to resort to litigation.

Speaking after a briefing on the impact of the new rules, held at the Botanical Gardens, Edgbaston, Birmingham, Mr Digby Rose, Edge Ellison's head of litigation, was not surprised by the figures.

He said: 'Mediation is rapidly becoming more popular in this country. It is much quicker and cheaper than litigation and less likely to kill the commercial relationship between the parties.

'At the same time, one of the aims of the reforms introduced by Lord Woolf was to ensure that someone who has a good claim is not prevented from pursuing it because of the cost of litigation. In that sense, the new rules can encourage people to litigate.'

The survey also confirmed that, when cases start, more information has to be given at an early stage and therefore cases can initially be more expensive. …