The latest from the Black Country 

No More Lawyers Anymore?

Richard Howell Cropped BWThe group, "The Stranglers" once had a hit with a song called "No more hero’s anymore". Whether or not you agree with their sentiment it did make me wonder how my profession, the legal profession, is perceived in the modern world. We like to think of ourselves as heroes but I have little doubt that, to some at least, lawyers are perceived as the "villains of the peace".

It occurs to me this perception might change in light of a recent move by the Courts to embrace modern technology and which could bring about a radical departure from the current system. In fairness, the legal system has traditionally tended to be lawyer biased because of the intricacies involved in the civil rules and procedures. Litigants in person often struggle their way through the system but can ill afford to employ lawyers and fear that the simpler cases will merely incur a legal bill which they either cannot recover or will exceed the amount in dispute.

The new proposals will see Judges being able to deal with claims worth up to a value £25,000 based on online electronic submissions which are uploaded by the parties themselves to what is being described as an "On-Line Court".

The "On-Line Court" concept has been the subject of a Final Report by Lord Justice Briggs and comes against a back drop which recognises the need for the Civil Courts to reform and function more efficiently in the wake of cuts to legal aid; an increased number of litigants in person; local Court closures; and the desire to keep the costs of litigation under control.

The concept involves the parties to a dispute having direct access to a Court process which is specifically designed for navigation without the need for lawyers. Broadly, there would be 3 stages:

1st Stage – this involves the Parties uploading information about the dispute to the On-Line Court system.

2nd Stage – once the system has been engaged a Case Officer (not a Judge) will engage with the parties and attempt to find a resolution of the dispute.

3rd Stage – if a resolution is not achieved the matter will progress to a review and determination by a Judge either on paper or by way of a conference or video call.

So, how could this affect your business?

There are clear positives and negatives in the current proposal for an On-line Court. On the positive side, as a concept, it will help to achieve what it sets out to do. It could save time and, importantly, make the whole process less stressful and more time and cost efficient. However, there are numerous practical problems which will first need to be overcome and even if this is achieved the question remains whether the process will be accessed fully and become a successful adjunct to the existing court processes.

A process such as this requires adequate and continual funding. Any form of On-line Court will require a huge amount of cost to be invested as well as the time and robust technology needed to deliver a workable reality. In light of Brexit and the uncertainty of how the UK will move forward both economically and politically, Lord Justice Briggs believes that an On-Line Court is more likely to be necessary in light of the decision to leave the EU. That remains to be seen.

As regards accessibility, those with poor (or even non-existent) IT and IT skills could run into a problem from the outset. In addition, any litigant looking forward to having their day in Court may end up being disappointed. While the emergence of an On-Line Court will not happen overnight, in order to keep the Civil Justice system moving forward against the challenges it faces, the On-Line Court concept will gather momentum and is likely to be implemented in some guise over the next number of years.

What it will not do, however, is supply that essential ingredient of advice. No-one either wants to or even likes the idea of losing a case and there is much more to conducting litigation aside from the court processes. Tactics and strategy can be a key to success and so even if the On-Line Court is brought into existence as envisaged it is difficult to see how mindful businesses would rush to issue or defend claims of £25,000 without first discussing their case with a legal advisor. Whilst the process for accessing justice may change through enhanced technology, the law may still remain somewhat of a mystery and so there will be costs risks associated for bringing or defending claims where the merits are questionable.

The law still needs its heroes (or villains). Indeed, some may say that is why our legal system is world renowned as it is.

For more information please contact:

Richard Howell
Chartered Legal Executive (Associate)
T : 0345 209 1071
E : This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

For more information about Clarke Willmott please visit

Last modified on Monday, 05 September 2016 09:51

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