Jackson and eDisclosure with Hobs Legal Docs in Manchester

On Thursday, I joined Terry Harrison of Hobs Legal Docs to give a talk on the eDisclosure aspects of the Jackson reforms at a seminar hosted by The Royal Bank Of Scotland in Manchester.

My real interest in this subject is the opportunity which the rule changes give to law firms and their clients not just to control costs but to make litigation more attractive as a business endeavour. Those who know the rules and who are ready and able to express proportionality arguments in a way which legitimately reduces the volumes of data (“legitimately” meaning in a way which is consistent with professional duty to court and clients) can not only win clients but put themselves in a position to influence the management of the case.

The desultory manner in which the Ministry of Justice has rolled out the Jackson updates has obscured the clear lines laid down by Lord Justice Jackson, requiring me to spend my time trying to clarify what the rules actually say rather than to focus on how they can be used to strategic and tactical advantage. An hour is not long enough to cover it all, and I was pleased to get a message via Twitter afterwards from someone who was present who said that he would like to hear the rest of the story. I will be happy to oblige if asked.

Hobs Legal DocsHobs Legal Docs has an office in Manchester. Terry Harrison, in his introduction, made it clear that he is already doing large-scale cases in Manchester requiring the use of high-end technology like predictive coding.  It is part of my overriding argument that the focus on technology and outsourced services, together with court control of the scope and method of giving disclosure, shifts the balance in favour of the smaller firms and the regional offices of big firms.  Most cases no longer need the very large teams which used to make large-scale litigation the province of the largest firms alone. There is no reason why big jobs must go to London and, indeed, there are many reasons in the new scheme of things why regional firms can legitimately claim to be able to undertake good-sized litigation at a cost acceptable to the courts as well as to the clients. The presence of local technology support is obviously helpful, and Hobs is there to give it.

We have to cope with the mess which results from the shambolic roll-out. What came out of the questions at the end of of our session was the incidence of real-life hard cases which are auguries of things to come. The decision (if that is not too hard-edged a word for it) to reduce user-facing court staff at the same time as introducing major procedural changes and cutting Legal Aid (thus increasing the number of bewildered litigants in person) shows that no-one at the MoJ has the first idea about management. But we knew that anyway.

My thanks to Hobs Legal Docs for the opportunity to speak in Manchester and to RBS for its hospitality.

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About Chris Dale

I have been an English solicitor since 1980. I run the e-Disclosure Information Project which collects and comments on information about electronic disclosure / eDiscovery and related subjects in the UK, the US, AsiaPac and elsewhere
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