The legal profession has evolved greatly over the past 1,000 years. When the Normans invaded in 1066, local courts were presided over by a lord or one of his stewards, and the King’s Court was presided over by the King himself. Up until the 12th century, an accused’s guilt or innocence was decided by how quickly their hand begun to heal after picking up a red hot bar of iron, or plucking a stone out of a cauldron of boiling water.

The latest proposals for reform of the court system are for the implementation of an ‘Online Court’. The Online Court has been proposed by the Master of the Rolls, Lord Dyson, who has suggested that there should be a new digital forum for resolving disputes of up to £25,000. The proposals include virtual courtrooms, designed to be accessed by litigants themselves and free from lawyers.

However, there are several concerns amongst the profession and litigants themselves about the proposed reforms. In summary these are:

  • A two-tier justice system – There is a fear that such a system could be created; one in which the parties are able to benefit from legal advice and representation, and one in which they are not.
  • The proposed upper limit being £25,000 – To the average individual or small to medium sized business, the proposed upper limit is far from a ‘small claim’. Furthermore, the majority of parties involved in such a dispute would very much like to have the benefit of legal representation to present their case to the Judge.
  • Access – The issue of inaccessibility has been raised on behalf of those individuals who may struggle to access the Online Court; for example those for whom English is not their first language, or being one of the estimated 6,000,000 people in the UK who have never used the internet.
  • False claims – The Law Society have also highlighted concerns about the Online Court being more susceptible to fraudulent claims and potential money laundering offences than a physical court.

If you are involved in a dispute, we highly recommend that you always seek advice from a lawyer at an early stage to talk about your options and receive a professional view on the strengths and merits of your case. It is possible that your lawyer may see a way to resolve your dispute through a number of alternative means, without incurring the time and expense of going to court, and avoiding a lot of the associated stress and uncertainty.

We have a number of experienced litigators at the firm who are able to assist with a wide range of disputes. During the past 12 months, we have assisted a number of our clients in receiving a positive outcome to their disputes to which 100% of our clients have described the service received as “excellent”.

We also have an exciting update to follow shortly in relation to the firm’s involvement with ‘Landbanking’ claims.