When I heard that Lord Jackson himself would elaborate on his reforms at Middle Temple, I was immediately intrigued and curious to learn more about how his revolutionary reforms have been embedded. Lord Jackson was in best form and the event was not only very informative and insightful but also very entertaining and inspiring.
Having been educated in the German court system, legal cost and court costs have never really been a huge issue of public discussion. To become a legal professional is still quite attractive in Germany, as lawyers enjoy a certain status and find themselves in the upper salary echelons, but nothing in comparison to the remuneration legal professionals in the Anglo-Saxon world receive where success fees exist and many other interesting premiums.
In the UK, constantly rising legal costs for civil litigations had lost any proportions and had become a major investment which made litigation unaffordable for many citizens, and something needed to change.
Six years ago, at the request of the Master of the Rolls with the support of the Ministry of Justice, Lord Jackson was appointed to review civil litigation and to make recommendations to promote access to justice at a proportionate cost. It takes a very brave and humble person with lots of integrity and knowledge to complete such an undertaking, because you will not make many friends, which Lord Jackson confirmed.
The Jackson Reforms contain in total 109 recommendations, most of which have now been implemented. In this blog I’d like to pick two recommendations which have in my opinion a high impact on how to create affordable access to justice:
- The Cost Management and Cost Budgeting becomes relevant before litigation begins. I learned my lesson about paying attention to costs and risk assessment when one of our professors at law school quoted ironically “Iudex non calculat” (“A legal professional doesn’t calculate”) when returning our exams on commercial contracts with catastrophic results (we all did very badly). It is common sense and common practice that before building a house, or before embarking on a business, you create a project and budget plan to assess the risks and costs and the viability. However until recently, this has not been the case for litigation. When clients ask their lawyers about what costs to expect they tend to get a vague answer as if the costs were completely unpredictable and would depend on a higher power. Lord Jackson mentioned that peu à peu lawyers have started to apply cost management, still with certain reluctance though. It seems that we moved at least from “Iudex non calculat” to let’s say “Iudex non amat calculare, but gets on with it”. In the case of mediation it is best mediator-practice to ask the lawyers/clients to prepare a cost and risk management sheet to bring to the mediation.
- The Promotion of ADR represents the essence of mediation. Being a mediator I was more than pleased to hear when Lord Jackson confirmed – based on his research on a worldwide level – that ADR is “the single most important way to cut costs” and to save time. In this context Lord Jackson closed his talk on a very important note reminding us all (an audience consisting mostly of young lawyers, barristers, solicitors and law students) what our job is about:
To serve and to represent the interests of our clients and to help them to get access to justice, rather than to serve our own needs whatever they may be (often financial or ego-related).
What’s your point of view on this?
By Susanne Schuler