A new forum has been set up to encourage an exchange of plans and ideas between HM Courts Service and the legal profession on business change and matters affecting the courts.
The forum will allow HMCS to talk about its plans and to hear about what is happening in the legal profession which may affect or influence those plans. The primary subject is business change rather than just IT, although IT will obviously be a major topic.
The group will be chaired by Mr Justice Stanley Burnton, the Judge in charge of Modernisation and IT. He has been appointed to the Court of Appeal with effect from 21 April, but will retain responsibility for Modernisation.
Membership includes four HMCS directors, lawyers nominated by relevant bodies and a litigation technology expert. Jonathan Maas of DLA Piper UK, a founding member of LiST (the Litigation Support Technology Group), was the obvious choice for the latter role.
There have been ambitious plans in the past for modernising the infrastructure of the courts – doing so was one of the Government’s early promises, but that went the way of so many other New Labour promises. The creation of this forum is not, I imagine, a harbinger of imminent funding, but it is nevertheless important that all interested parties – judges, civil servants and users – keep each other informed as to what is desirable and what is possible.
This is not the only sign of renewed HMCS activity – a senior HMCS man came to the first of our Law Society e-disclosure sessions in Birmingham last year and there has been other interaction in the Midlands. It is important, of course, to distinguish between things the courts ought to provide for the efficient administration of justice and the efficient management of cases by judges. The one requires Government investment and is thus subject to long-term planning and the availability of funding. The other happens today, when a judge makes an order at a Case Management Conference.
The new forum is to be welcomed and I look forward to hearing more about it in due course.