Utilising time when a hearing comes out

In Kent there are a number of problems with the court buildings.  The beautiful new court building in Medway at Gun Wharf is closed for the foreseeable future due to RAAC.  Thanet is shut for several months while works to the building are ongoing.  This has led to a higher number than usual of listed hearings being removed at the last minute.  Barristers, solicitors, and lay clients find themselves in a situation where they had made arrangements to be available at court but cannot go ahead with the court hearing.  What then can be done to best utilise that time?

It is rare that no progress can be made in the court time that would have been available.  In the modern age of Zoom and Microsoft Teams, it is possible at the very least to arrange a conference between lay client and barrister.  The lay client and barrister would have been together at court, so why not utilise the time to have a conference to discuss case tactics and management with client and Counsel?

A round-table meeting is a meeting where parties and representatives to a case come together in the hope of narrowing the issues or resolving matters.  This can be arranged very quickly and very easily via electronic means.  Even if only a small amount of the allocated court time is used for such a meeting, it may be that the parties can agree some issues that are keeping them apart.  This could be with the assistance of Counsel, allowing the parties to concentrate their efforts elsewhere in the hope of reaching agreement before the re-listed hearing. 

In matrimonial finance cases, where the hearing that has come out is FDR, private FDR’s can be arranged very quickly.  There are a number of private FDR Judges throughout the country who are happy to conduct FDRs on short notice by video links.  I am one of them and am happy to conduct private FDRs at Anvil Chambers, or by video. 

Where barristers have prepared for a hearing and are fully seised of the issues in the case, instructing solicitors may wish to arrange that the barristers speak to see whether any agreement can be reached on anything between the parties.

As the legal system continues to be squeezed by chronic lack of funding, inadequate facilities, and extreme pressure on the court time that is available, it is incumbent on those conducting legal cases to look at the best ways to utilise time.  If we can be of any assistance at Anvil Chambers with private arrangements after the removal of a hearing, round-table meetings or any other form of alternative dispute resolution, please contact clerks@anvilchambers.co.uk.