In December 2015, Lord Justice Briggs published the Interim Report of the Civil Courts Structure Review. Undertaking a traditional SWOT analysis of the current set-up, the opening sentence of the “Strengths” section reads: “The civil courts of England and Wales are among the most highly-regarded in the world” (para 5.4).

It continues: “... the courts with the highest international reputation are those situated in the Rolls Building. They attract the voluntary submission to their jurisdiction by numerous international parties, both by their original choice of law and jurisdiction in their contractual dealings, and by their recourse to the long-arm jurisdiction of the English courts where permitted by their rules of private international law. ...the exceptional quality of those courts contributes in no small measure to the attractiveness of this country as a place in which to own property and carry on business because of their underpinning of the rule of law.” (para 5.15)

Very few practitioners would disagree. Yet, as the existence of the Review itself demonstrates, no system – particularly one which enjoys a pre-eminent global status – can or should stand still. The English system has adapted, and one of its strengths is its flexibility, but is its evolution fit for purpose and can it continue to enjoy its current status?

Challenges to the English system

The review chaired by Lord Justice Briggs has identified structural threats to the position of the English court system, but its focus has been internalised. The current delays, particularly in taking cases to the Court of Appeal, are therefore mentioned, as are the costs of litigating in England and Wales which, despite the Jackson reforms, remain as high and as much of an issue for the parties as they have ever done.

Jul-Sep 2016 issue

Signature Litigation LLP