Event

Year 126 and onwards: planning for the future of London's Commercial Courts: a review

Opus 2 was thrilled recently to work alongside London's Commercial Court to present a virtual seminar as part of the celebration of the Court's 125th Anniversary. The event, held on 7th September, brought together 15 expert speakers from many aspects of the legal industry to discuss some of the lessons learnt from the recent use of remote hearings.

With over 900 sign-ups to the seminar from all around the world, as far reaching as Australia, India and Singapore, the panellists had a captive audience for the three main sessions held throughout the day. The sessions were varied in topics and raised some of major talking points that the commercial courts are currently having to address in this unique environment.

Following introductory remarks from Lord Justice Flaux, the first discussion focused on, 'Virtual and Hybrid Hearings - the lessons and legacies of the covid learning curve'. The second session was, 'The Disclosure Pilot - Phase 2', followed by the third, 'What next for witness statements?'. There was also a brief assessment of 'Coda: The Covid Insurance Test Case', from Leigh-Ann Mulcahy of Fountain Court Chambers

In the first session, the panel, chaired by The Hon. Mrs Justice Cockerill, raised a number of positives surrounding virtual CMC hearings in recent months, which included potential savings of time and money, greater engagement from clients in proceedings, increased efficiency of tribunals, and the benefits of virtual bundles.

Some concerns raised included reasons for shorter hearings, such as a loss of spontaneity and reduced judicial intervention, as well as whether junior barristers and solicitors are missing out on gaining experience from in-court hearings. On the latter point, John Smouha QC commented saying: "What we still need more time to do is how we can improve the way in which we do virtual hearings and the way in which advocacy will develop and the skills necessary in relation to virtual hearings to make them more effective."

There was consensus, though, that the feedback from recent months regarding adoption of technologies has been generally positive. Many of the comments made were reflected in the results of a number of polls posed to the audience throughout the session, which you can see below.

Should remote remain the default setting for case management hearings?Should the parties be able to agree that a CMC will not be virtual in advance and whatever the Court's view?

Should substantial interlocutories remain virtual in some form?Should only the main witnesses come to a physical Court with the presumption being minor witnesses give evidence remotely?

Would you favour other portions of cases also being held remotely?

Further sessions focusing on issues for disclosure and witness statements raised a number of equally compelling points regarding recent developments and how the future might take shape. The recordings for these sessions are available here, as well as a number of supporting documents for the seminars.

We would like to thank The London Commercial Court and the 15 panellists who contributed throughout the day. You can find further events to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the London Commercial Court here.