Notes from the Launch of the new Business and Property Courts in Leeds

Business and Property Courts in Leeds – Launch – 10 July 2017

The Chancellor of the Chancery Court – Sir Geoffrey Vos

Former Vice Chancellor – Mr Justice Norris

Vice Chancellor – Mr Justice Barling

Head of the TCC – Mr Justice Coulson

Sponsor – Thomson Reuters – Beverley Barton (Practical Law – Dispute Resolution)

Leeds Law Society – Sue Harris (director at Walker Morris LLP)

Mr Justice Norris

Good evening and thank you for joining us, I must point out that Mr Justice Barling, my successor, is here this evening.

I must thank Leeds Law Society and Sue Harris for organising the event, BPP for allowing us to use the venue and Practical Law for sponsoring the event.

This is the formal launch and the Court will go live in October 2017. This launch is to accustom you to the idea of the BPCs.

It have always been proud to be involved in the specialist courts in Leeds. I began my career as a specialist court judge in Leeds and it has been a pleasure to be involved in the regional courts.

I would mention three key factors about the Leeds Courts:

  1. Flexibility – inherent in the specialist judges who provide service to meet local needs;
  2. It is a bi-regional centre – genuine specialist commercial and property work is done here;
  3. My task has been to persuade users of these truths. In regional specialist courts you can have a lower cost and greater speed than in London.

I have felt that I was going against the grain of the system in trying to bring about these changes. Indicators show that clients tend to send work towards London. The launch of the BPCs will bring work back to the regions.

It will retain the existing specialism with a coherent offering that is understandable to the litigants themselves. No case is too big to be tried in the regions.

The launch offers terrific potential for the great body of solicitors in Leeds /surrounding areas.

I am pleased to introduce to you the Chancellor who is the driving force behind this initiative.

Sir Geoffrey Vos

It is a pleasure to be here in Leeds for the launch of the Business and Property Courts (BPCs) in Leeds.

This is an exciting time for specialist work in Leeds. You have two excellent new senior circuit judges in the shape and form of HHJ Malcolm Davis-White QC and HHJ Jonathan Klein, who are working alongside the old guard of HHJ Mark Gosnell, the DCJ, HHJ Mark Raeside, and HHJ Andrew Saffman.

The BPCs of E&W launched in London last Tuesday 4 July, and many of you will have seen the reports of the hugely supportive speech that the new Lord Chancellor, David Liddington CBE MP, made.

In addition, there was a very successful launch in Birmingham last Thursday at which the importance of these developments became clear.

What is apparent already this evening is that the local legal and business communities here in Leeds understand that, if UK plc is to thrive post Brexit, we are going to have to be a little more proactive and outward-looking in order to demonstrate to the world at large that our business dispute resolution services across E&W are second to none.

All this is of crucial importance here in Leeds where the population is rising fast, now at 780,000. And the population of the Leeds-Bradford urban zone is now nearly 2.4 million people.

I want to take a few minutes now to explain some of the details of the new BPCs in Leeds.

Advantages

The advantages are, as I have repeatedly said, obvious.

As we leave the European Union, it is incredibly important that judges and lawyers alike can show that English law and the courts of E&W will continue to offer dependable, top quality and, even more importantly, incorruptible, court-based dispute resolution. We face increasing competition from jurisdictions across the world including New York, Netherlands, Germany, Singapore and many countries in the Middle East.

We cannot achieve this if we continue to use unintelligible and incomprehensible names and titles.  As I said at the Rolls Building launch in London, we need to reach out to occasional users of these courts and to national and international business generally, so as to ensure that they too understand what we are doing and can easily understand the services we offer.

Lawyers have, I am afraid, always rather liked using words that nobody else can understand. Lord Woolf tried with a limited amount of success to abolish Latin in 1999. And we have tried, unsuccessfully, for more than 200 years to explain to the business community what “Chancery” means.  That might indicate that it is time to quit trying. I do think we need to make sure that the names we use are intelligible to those we serve – namely the national and international court users.

The “Business and Property Courts” will be a user-friendly understandable name for UK plc’s national and international dispute resolution jurisdictions. In short, as the LC said last week, we will be doing here what is written on the tin. At the same time, the use of the obsolete 19th century word “mercantile” is to be discontinued. Mercantile judges are to be renamed “Circuit Commercial judges”, and the “Mercantile Court” will become the “Circuit Commercial Court”.

But the biggest advantage from a regional perspective is the connectivity that the new arrangements offer between our specialist jurisdictions in the Rolls Building and those here in the regions.

The BPCs will create a single umbrella for the specialist courts across the regional centres in Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Bristol and Cardiff, with Newcastle and Liverpool being added in due course.

As many of you will have heard me say, ever since this project began, we will be creating a super-highway between London and the regions. We will ensure that business dispute resolution is of equal quality across E&W for the benefit of international and domestic enterprises. We will create a critical mass of judges in each regional centre and make sure that HCJs are available to try important cases in the regions.  No case will ever to be too big to be tried in the regions.

Here in Leeds, the quality has always been assured, and has, as I have said, recently been enhanced.  But we should not also forget your excellent DJs, who manage the Chancery cases:  DJ Jeff Goldberg, DJ Siobhan Kelly, DJ Anesh Pema and DJ Patrick Troy.

The third advantage of the new BPCs will be the ability to deploy judicial talent more flexibly than we have before. The old system has confined judges to their particular specialist court. I very much hope that we will in future see our High Court Judges using all their specialist talents to the full advantage of business litigants – in London and here in Leeds.

Finally, the BPCs 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.

The practical consequences of the introduction of the BPCs

With that introduction, I want to explain the changes that you will observe when we “go live” on 2 October 2017.

CE-filing was made compulsory for professional users in London from April 2017. Electronic filing is in the process of being rolled out to the regions, and should go live here in Leeds in the Spring of 2018. But all over the BPCs from the “go live” date of 2 October 2017, you will have to choose one of the 10 specialist courts and lists when you issue your proceedings.

Those 10 lists will be as follows, in alphabetical order: the Admiralty Court (QBD), the Business List (ChD), the Commercial Court (QBD), the Company & Insolvency List (ChD), the Competition List (ChD), the Financial List (ChD/QBD), the Intellectual Property List (ChD) (including the Patents Court and IPEC), the Property, Trusts & Probate List (ChD), the Revenue List (ChD), and the Technology & Construction Court (QBD).

Where those lists and courts have sub-lists or courts, you will be asked to choose the sub-list. For example, for the Business List in the Chancery Division, you will be able to choose Financial Services and Regulatory, General Business or Pensions. Once the specialist IT has been rolled out to Leeds next year, you will be asked, after you have chosen your List, to identify the court centre in which you wish to issue the proceedings.

Some have expressed concern about the choice of lists. Just as the parties do now, they will have autonomy. They will be able to choose where they start their case. There will be the same court oversight as there is now, so that if they have started in completely the wrong list, they will risk transfer out just as they do now, but that will not normally occur. To give one example of how to choose the correct list, a technical property case such as one on leasehold enfranchisement would probably be best at home in the Property, Trusts & Probate list, whilst a commercial property dispute about the ownership of a development property or the shares in a property development company would probably be better in the general Business list.  As always, guidance will be available from the listing officers and the District Judges and section 9 judges here in Leeds.

The Practice Direction

There will also be a new BPCs Practice Direction which will be published before the “go live” date on 2 October 2017. It will deal with choosing the lists and with transfers. We will provide an integrated BPCs structure across E&W. I hope that in future, cases with a regional connection will stay in the regions for management and trial, because the waiting times are considerably less here than they are in London.

Finally in this connection, the Practice Direction will identify the County Court work that will be regarded as work of the BPCs, so as to bring what were known as the Hart-Lloyd guidelines up to date.  The BPCs work in the County Court will be labelled as such, in place of the name “Chancery Business List”.

What will the BPCs mean to the national and international business community? As you have heard in recent days from the LC and the LCJ, our UK jurisdictions have for some years faced increasing competition from other jurisdictions in Europe and beyond that would like to get their hands on the litigation and arbitration work that comes here.

The advent of the BPCs will make us more outward facing, less backward looking, and provide a memorable and intelligible name for all our specialist jurisdictions. This change is, in my view, long overdue.  It will lead to the rejuvenation of English business and property law on which so much of the commercial community has for so long relied.

The judiciary is also not standing still in terms of the competition I have spoken about. With the help of City UK, the Bar Council, the Law Society, the City of London Solicitors, COMBAR and the Chancery Bar Association, we have published a brochure online explaining the benefits of English law, UK Courts and UK Legal Services after Brexit. This brochure has been very well received by our ambassadors and by others who are in touch with legal and business communities overseas.  You can find it online at: http://www.chba.org.uk/news/uk-legal-services-after-brexit

Website

The new BPCs structure is reflected and explained on the judiciary’s website, which will reflect the BPCs’ changes and will carry news items, judgments, judges’ biographies, cause lists, and other useful information, for London and for the BPCs in regional centres: https://www.judiciary.gov.uk/you-and-the-judiciary/going-to-court/high-court/

Mr Justice Coulson

I am the Judge in charge of the Technology and Construction Court. I am delighted to welcome and be part of the BPCs in London and the regions. On a personal note, I am happy to be back in Leeds. The specialist work here is still thriving following the retirement of two judges.

I am also representing the Queen’s Bench division today who have asked me to pass on their comments. The QB is delighted to welcome the launch to the thriving business sector of Leeds. What will be provided here will be the one-stop shop for any business disputes and it has provided an excellent opportunity to promote Leeds as a commercial hub.

From QB’s point of view: strengths of individual courts remain and will be added to by the BPCs. Commercial court cases will be tried in Circuit Commercial Court. On behalf of QB we recognise this excellent opportunity to build on what we already have.

If TCC hearing is more suitably held outside London, we will aim to provide that. Existing TCC procedures will remain in place. We believe this will add to the links between London and the regions. We hope that it will lead to a stronger offering to UK business.

As for the TCC we don’t change our name. TCC has been in the forefront of procedural innovations. Nationally we are involved in disputes of all kinds to date we have had cases relating to roads, bridges, hospitals, wind farms, fire pollution, public procurement.

As far as TCC is concerned:

  • Despite changes the judges will continue their own case management
  • BPCs will strengthen the TCC role as supervising court of arbitration
  • The new court will serve to strengthen links to specialist courts all over the country

BPCs will ensure more disputes are resolved in Leeds. For the right case the TCC judges will be happy to come out of London and try the cases here.

Beverley Barton

Good evening. I am Beverley Barton, one of the editors in the Practical Law Dispute Resolution team (part of Thomson Reuters) and I am here with Rachel Hopkinson, Head of the Dispute team, and our colleague, Andrew Wilson, from Thomson Reuter’s Yorkshire office. Thomson Reuters is delighted to be sponsoring the event this evening.

Our role at Practical Law is to monitor dispute resolution developments and keep practitioners informed – we have certainly been kept busy over recent times, with Lord Justice Jackson’s review of civil litigation costs, Lord Justice Briggs’ civil courts structure review, and Lord Justice Jackson’s review of the fixed recoverable costs regime – due to conclude later this month.

These initiatives demonstrate the crucial role played by our judiciary in modernisation of our civil justice system.

I was fortunate to attend the London launch of the BPCs last week, and took three key messages from that:

  • First, the need for reform in order to respond to the very real competitive threat from other jurisdictions, and to safeguard the pre-eminence of English law and the English courts.
  • Second, the fact that this is a judge-led initiative, strongly supported by the judges of all the constituent courts under the new umbrella of the BPCs.
  • And – thirdly, and perhaps of most significant note for this event – the genuine desire to give effect to Lord Justice Briggs’ conclusion that no case should be too big for the regions.

These are genuinely exciting times for practitioners. Undoubtedly, there are challenges, but there are also huge opportunities. Leeds is at the forefront of the changes – local judges have recognised and harnessed initiatives and the Leeds District Registry will be participating in the fixed costs pilot scheme.

A willingness to embrace change will stand local practitioners in good stead. The launch of the BPCs in Leeds, coupled with other initiatives has the potential to radically change the civil court landscape in Leeds, and, possibly, to untap new business, with greater access for justice for SMEs, for example. It will be you, as local practitioners, who use and shape the future of the BPCs in Leeds.

We hope that you will join us, over a drink, to chat about what that future might hold.

Mr Justice Barling

Mr Justice Norris has told you that there are two projects being launched in Leeds today the BPCs and me as Mr Justice Norris’ successor I have infinity with the court and its success.

I am honoured and excited to return to where I started my career. In my time on circuit it has astonished me, that with so much talent in both branches of the legal profession and so much work generated in the North, how much of that work was sent to London.

There have been massive strides to address this imbalance but as we have now heard there is still more to be done if we are to retain this work. What we hope is that this will become part of the Northern Powerhouse.

As Alistair’s successor I will be hoping to build on what previous judges have already made here in the regions. In the case of Newcastle there may be a fourth judge who will focus there, Newcastle has made huge steps forward.

The Chancellor has mentioned connectivity and I can assure you that, to the extent that it is within my remit, I will do my utmost to ensure that a High Court judge is available to hear the cases and case manage cases where appropriate, even if not sitting in the regions at that time. As and when appropriate judges should be able to come to the regions. I can also tell you from my own experience where High Court judges have come to me and said if the opportunity arises I would positively like to come and sit in the North which is very encouraging.

It cannot be over emphasised that this is no mere re branding exercise. It is important to have an intelligible name but more importantly this will provide a tremendous boost to spreading cases more evenly. I believe that under the umbrella of the new name more opportunities will arise.

Finally I am quite a good example of what a wide spectrum of cases the Chancery has now displaced. I am now one of four who have specialisms that are not thought of as Chancery. We have already moved a long way in the right direction and the BPCs are a logical development.

I now invite any questions to the panel. You have already been provided with a lot of information but if there are any burning questions now is the time.

Questions and answers:
On behalf of the Competition specialists – will we be able to issue in Leeds as oppose to issue in London as under the current PD?

Yes absolutely, one of the 10 areas that will be listed has been identified as Competition.

So the PD will be modified and will of course be a BPCs PD.

One of the things I intend to do is to organise seminars etc to increase dialogue.

Are there any plans to improve accommodation in Leeds?

In the long term there are, but there are no immediate plans. There is a lot going on in terms of court reform (IT £700m investment).

There will be improvement in current accommodation but the Leeds Court is not on the list to be replaced by better accommodation in the near future.

Sue Harris

I want to thank the speakers for their informative presentations. I also thank BPP for providing the room and Practical Law Dispute Resolution for sponsoring the refreshments.

I also appreciate everyone’s attendance today, there are about 130 of us here this evening, especially given the rail strike today and I would like to invite you all to continue discussions over a glass of wine. 

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