The Lord Woolf to undertake another wide-ranging review civil

The civil
justice system in UK contributed in handling civil disputes. Unfortunately, reports
showed that civil process was ineffective as they were not able to resolve severe
issues rising in most countries because of unsystematic development in the
civil legal system. In recent years changes have been made in civil justice
system to solve three major problems of cost, complexity, and delay. It was in
this background of criticism the Conservative Government appointed Lord Woolf
to undertake another wide-ranging review civil process.

The civil
legal system being mostly adversarial resulted in unchallenging pre-trial
procedures in civil courts. As amount of public money spent on justice system
increased, delay and high cost in solving disputes became a political issue. To
minimize the length of time and trial when cases reach courts, reforms of
pre-trial procedures were initiated from the early 1950’s.

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Introduction
of some further reforms such as Civil Justice Review of 1986 referenced to improve the machinery
of civil justice in England and Wales through introducing reforms to reduce cost,
complexity, and delay.1
Costs were disproportionate to amount of claim. There was delay in bringing an
action and getting the case to the court which affected the evidence and the
witnesses. Compensation were too delayed which reduced public confidence in
justice. In relation to complexity too many cases were tried at the high court.
The solution was seen in balancing the cost and efficiency of the courts and in
improving the management of courts which were made in the Courts and Legal
Services Act.2

 The above reforms had little impact on legal system;
therefore, in 1994 Lord Woolf was commissioned to eliminate the defects in civil
justice system. According to him the courts should encourage dynamic case
administration. The utilization of alternative methods of acquiring justice,
through meditation, was to be empowered and the exchange of witness statements
between both parties was to be preferred. His proposals were afterward made a
portion of civil system under the New Civil Procedure Rules3
with the aim of making civil disputes simple, quick and less adversarial. CPRs
are Litigation rule book which provide rules to the processes and procedures
that must be followed.

Lord Woolf,
while starting his examination of the Civil law process recognized assorted
issues. His interim report of June 1995 stated some of the main issues which
were cost, delay and, complexity. Lack of legal control made the litigation
process appear as a battle field where no rules apply which resulted in
unbalanced cost and unpredictable delays.4
According to him litigation should be dodged wherever conceivable.

Other major
reforms that had immediate impact on cost and delay were Pre-action protocols,
case management and ADR. Pre-action protocols encouraged early settlements
which should be followed by parties before making a claim for judicial review. The
aim is to enable the parties to promote co-operation by knowing everything beforehand
and avoiding litigation process.5
Case management was critical feature consisting of three tracks; each determining
which court will deal with claim depending on its cost value and the subject
matter.

Alternative
Dispute Resolution is a less costly method of resolving disputes between two
parties who avoid going to the courts. ADR leads to agreed solutions between
the parties and promotes early settlements. As of the compulsion on the parties,
individuals are less willing to try ADR. There is a need of request for
mediation, particularly in the cases where the claim is a result of a breakdown
in a relationship. In Cowl v Plymouth City Council
6,
the case was heard by Lord Woolf where he held that ADR options such as
mediation must be preferred by the courts especially where public money is
involved. To resolve the issues concerning hesitance of claimants in utilizing
Alternative Dispute Resolution, changes are required in civil justice system.7

One important
criticism of Woolf reforms is the introduction of proportionality through an overriding
objective into Civil Procedure Rules where courts can deal with cases justly. Which
means making sure that the parties are on an equal footing, saving expenses and
ensuring that case is dealt fairly.8

Introduced by
the Courts and Legal Services Act 1990 and Access to Justice Act 1999, Conditional
Fee Arrangements refers to ‘no win, no fee’ contract between solicitor and
private client. Here, private client on winning agrees to pay success fee to
the solicitor which will be paid by the losing team. The losing party will have
to pay success fee with litigation fee, which is 95% of the total legal fees. The
whole aim was to enable the less wealthy people to pursue litigation. MGN Ltd v UK 9held
that success fees were disproportionate to the claim brought. It was argued
that Woolf reforms increased the costs by introducing CFA’s instead of making
litigation more cost effective. Therefore, Lord Jackson was asked to conduct
review of civil litigation costs. His view was that cost should be
proportionate to the value of case. One of his key recommendations was to avoid using CFAs.10

Though Woolf’s
Reforms were accepted by many, there were also who criticized them as unsuccessful.
One of the major criticisms was made by Michael Zander. He argued that once the
case begins, there is a massive pressure on the parties to enter settlement. He
also added that pre-trial hearing will not reduce delay and cost.11
Furthermore, according to Rand report case management increased the work for
lawyers also the cost as it adds to front loading. There were many others who
believed that Woolf’s reforms have not contributed towards success especially
when it comes to cost.

In conclusion,
comment will be that Woolf reforms have succeeded in promoting settlement and
avoiding litigation which is great advantage for litigants who can now avoid
high costs and everlasting court procedures. But the main aim of reforms was to
reduce the cost, which is not completely achieved. Since advantages outweighs
the disadvantages, Woolf’s reforms still have a long way to go and can be
considered as a great incentive for the future.

1
accessed 29 December 2017

2 Courts and Legal Services Act 1990

3 Civil Procedure Rules 1998

4 accessed
29 December 2017

5
accessed 3 January 2018

6 Cowl v Plymouth City Council
2001 EWHC Admin 734

7
accessed 3 January 2018

8  accessed 5 January 2018

9 MGN Ltd v UK  2011 ECHR 66, 39401/04, (2011) 53 EHRR 5, 29
BHRC 686, 2011 1 Costs LO 84, 2011 EMLR 20

10 Rupert Jackson, (2017). Review
of Civil Litigation Costs: Supplemental Report Fixed Recoverable Costs. online pp.9-12.
Available at:
accessed 3 January 3, 2018

11 accessed 5 January 2018