In early July this year, receptions were held in London and around the Country to mark the formal launch of The Business and Property Courts.
The Lord Chancellor, David Lidington, stated at the Rolls Building:
“… how delighted I am to be attending what is a landmark event for our Judges as they lead change from the front and look for new opportunities presented by the globalisation of legal services.”
The Business and Property Courts is the new name for England and Wales’ dispute resolution jurisdictions and will act as a single umbrella for business specialist courts across England and Wales. It includes the following specialist Courts and Lists of the High Court:
- The Commercial Court including the Admiralty Court and Mercantile Court;
- The Technology and Construction Court (“TCC”);
- The Courts of the Chancery Division (including those dealing with financial services, intellectual property, competition and insolvency.
A full list is set out below.
As well as London, where these specialist jurisdictions operate together at The Rolls Building, there will also be Business and Property Courts in five main regional centres.
Users seeking to issue proceedings electronically will, after 2 October 2017, be directed to the Business and Property Courts in England and Wales and will then be asked to choose which Court or List they wish their case to be assigned to. Having identified the Court or List in which they wish to issue proceedings, users will then be asked to identify which centre they wish to issue the proceedings in.
The choice will, in almost all cases, be between London, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds and Cardiff. The senior judiciary are adamant that no case is too big for the regions and they tend to repeat this mantra at every opportunity.
The title for the Action in the TCC will be:
IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE
BUSINESS AND PROPERTY COURTS OF ENGLAND AND WALES
TECHNOLOGY AND CONSTRUCTION COURT (“QBD”)
The new arrangements will enhance the connection between the Courts in London and the Regions. A digital “highway” between the Business and Property Courts in London and those in the regions is in development, and electronic issuing of claims, mandatory in the Rolls Building courts in London from April this year, it is said will be made available in the Regions in 2018.
The advantages expected from the new Business and Property Courts (“B&PCs”) can be briefly summarised as follows:
- An intelligible name: “Business and Property Courts” will be a user-friendly understandable umbrella term for UK plc’s national and international dispute resolution jurisdictions. Our legal services providers will be able to convey to international and domestic clients an all-encompassing picture of the courts’ offering. The B&PCs will continue to offer the best court-based dispute resolution service in the world, served by a top class independent specialist judiciary;
- Regional B&PCs joined up with London: The B&PCs will be a single umbrella for business specialist courts across England and Wales. There will be a super-highway between the B&PCs at the Rolls Building and those in the regions to ensure that international businesses and domestic enterprises are equally supported in the resolution of their disputes;
- Flexible cross deployment of judges: The B&PCs will facilitate the flexible cross-deployment of judges with suitable expertise and experience to sit in business and property cases across the courts;
- Familiar procedures: The B&PCs will build on the reputation and standing of the Commercial Court, the TCC and the Courts of the Chancery Division, while allowing for the familiar procedures and practices of those jurisdictions to be retained.
Waiting times are considerably less in the Regional Courts than they are at The Rolls Building. In all Business and Property Courts a High Court Judge can be provided to try an appropriate case outside London.
In addition to such practical considerations, the new umbrella term is designed to be easier to be understood by both the domestic and international business and legal communities. Particularly with Brexit on the horizon, there is a desire to ensure that the international business community continues to understand the value of English law and the dispute resolution services provided in the UK. Some of the names in current use like Chancery and Mercantile are considered by many to be obscure, antiquated and not readily understood.
This is more than just a rebranding exercise. The Business and Property Courts signals an important new commitment to promote accessibility and efficient resolution of disputes.
As Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, said:
“The Judiciary is committed to maintaining Britain’s reputation as the best place in the world for Court-based dispute resolution. These changes will ensure that our Courts and Judiciary continue to lead the world in this field.”
For the practitioners and users of the TCC, these changes reflect the following:
- a new enthusiasm from the Government and the senior judiciary to persuade domestic and international parties to resolve their disputes in these Courts;
- a recognition that the Business and Property Courts have been too London-centric, “no case is too big for the regions”;
- an understanding, perhaps, that the Woolf reforms are not suitable for 21st Century litigation and further procedural reforms are necessary to reduce the front-loading of costs and to curb and to control disclosure.
Members of Atkin Chambers generally welcome these developments and will happily further explain and/or expand on any questions our clients domestically and internationally may have.
Martin Bowdery QC is a member of Atkin Chambers and current chair of the Technology & Construction Bar Association (TECBAR).
The Courts or Lists that will make up the Business and Property Courts are to be as follows:
- The Admiralty Court;
- The Business List;
- The Commercial Court (covering all its existing subject areas of banking and finance, shipping and insurance, trade and energy, and international arbitration, as well as the Circuit Commercial Courts, formerly Mercantile Courts);
- The Financial List (covering some of the most significant cases in the banking and financial markets);
- The Competition List;
- The Financial List (covering banking and financial markets);
- The Insolvency and Companies Court;
- The Intellectual Property List (including the Patents Court and the Intellectual Property and Enterprise Court, the “IPEC”);
- The Property Trust and Probate List;
- The Revenue List;
- The Technology and Construction Court (covering all its traditional areas of major technology and construction cases).