Lawyers should be able to replace any work lost to the online court (OC) with other cases, the government said yesterday, although it did not suggest how this would be done.
The blithe statement came in an impact assessment published alongside the Prisons and Courts Bill, which will establish a new online procedure capable of applying to civil, family and tribunal proceedings, overseen by a dedicated online procedure rules committee
Lord Justice Briggs – whose recommendation the Ministry of Justice is following – said the OC offered opportunities for lawyers to offer unbundled advice to claimants.
The impact assessment said: “We expect that the new rule-making process would be applied in a way that leads to a more intuitive online court process. This is likely to be the result of establishing a rules committee with different expertise and a specific mandate to create simple rules.
“This may reduce the need of some claimants to engage lawyers in the online court, as one of the design features of the online court is a process which requires less specialist legal knowledge, this could lead to a reduction in income for solicitors from these cases.
“However, it is assumed that solicitors and other approved professionals would be able to substitute the time they currently spend on dealing with these cases with other work with the same income resulting in no net loss of income.”
The assessment predicted that the proposed procedure would help parties to civil litigation “narrow down the issues and resolve their cases through online dispute resolution (ODR), or via a mediated settlement, so reserving judicial time for only the most complex cases”.
It said the OC would do this by:
- Encouraging parties to communicate to each other the relevant details of and evidence about their case at the earliest possible stage;
- Opening up opportunities for conciliation, whether as the result of the digitisation of the exchange of documents, or through the expansion of pre-trial mediation; and
- Enabling the case, if still not resolved, to be managed and made ready for hearing with all the requisite information available on an electronic file, “thereby making more efficient the processes of a case officer and judicial preparation and determination”.
The assessment said the £1bn being spent on court and tribunal modernisation aimed to future-proof the justice system: “The reforms will fundamentally change systems and processes and be built around the use of modern technologies to ensure the court and tribunal system is able to respond as promptly, effectively and proportionately to the needs of its different users that will be equally effective in 2050 as 2020.
“It would be a court and tribunal system that proactively helps people to navigate their way to the best resolution for them; uses the simplest language, process and systems; has the minimum number of steps possible that people need to go through to obtain justice; and improves access to justice.”