Michael Todd QC, the Chairman of the Bar Council, explains why we have a legal services sector to be proud of.
It was whilst I was attending the International Bar Association’s (IBA’s) Annual Conference late last year, in Dubai, that I witnessed with considerable satisfaction and pride, the esteem in which our justice system, judges and practitioners are held by not only the rest of the common law world, but also those who practise within civil systems of justice.
What struck me, in particular, was the desire and enthusiasm of others to learn of what was happening in the UK; of the latest developments in the common law, of ethical and professional challenges, of the influence of the Legal Services Act 2007 on practice, and of the manner in which we deliver our legal services.
It was fortuitous, therefore, that the opening of the Rolls Building as the new business and property Court within the Royal Courts of Justice, coincided with that Conference.
Providers of legal services in the UK tend to specialise in particular areas of law (e.g. company, insolvency, financial services, banking, IP, property, shipping, and commercial, to name but a few) which makes their services attractive to businesses and clients globally, and demand for their services ever more buoyant.
The Rolls Building brings together 39 specialist High Court Judges, combining the expertise and experience of the Chancery Division, including the Patent Court, the Admiralty and Commercial Court, and the Technology and Construction Court within one fit-for-purpose Building, with its 31 Court rooms, 55 consultation rooms, and state-of-the-art IT; providing modern facilities for even the most complex of international and domestic business disputes.
The opening of the Rolls Building incentivised the Unlocking Disputes Initiative, a legal services sector led campaign designed further to promote the UK, as the global dispute resolution centre of choice. Focused on the opening of the Rolls Building, ‘Unlocking Disputes’ brings together the Bar Council and the Law Society working collaboratively, and with Government, the Judiciary, the Mansion House, TheCityUK, the Bar and law firms. ‘Unlocking Disputes’, which is shortly to enter its second phase, is a testament to the collective strength of the legal services sector when working together, and investing time and resource in the pursuit of common goals. The involvement of the Mansion House and of TheCityUK in the initiative reflects the reality that it is not only the legal services sector which will reap the rewards, but that the business, commercial, and financial sectors will also share in that success.
‘Unlocking Disputes’ is not just about the opening of a new Court building. It is not buildings which attract business, it is the integrity of our justice system, of our Judiciary and of our specialist legal services providers. But this new Court building enables us to provide our dispute resolution services expertly, efficiently and cost effectively.
Investment in legal services, even in times of austerity, pays dividends. World class justice requires world class facilities. The Rolls Building and ‘Unlocking Disputes’ are investments in our future of which we can be proud.