In a recent report, appeal court judge Lord Justice Briggs recommends an ‘online court’ meaning a court without solicitor involvement.
There is a clear and pressing need to use the opportunity presented by the digitising of the civil courts to create for the first time a court – the Online Court (OC) – for litigants to be enabled to have effective access to justice without lawyers.
The judge seems to intimate that if litigants were to use an online court system more claims will be issued negating the need for legal assistance – therefore individuals or companies could issue a claim via the use of modern technology instead of traditional methods.
The Disadvantages Of An Online Court
However, there are various noticeable downsides to using this proposed online court. The meaning of “online court” may be broadly interpreted and confusing to non-lawyers (i.e. it may suggest that everything should be submitted to the court online which would ultimately eliminate other methods such as telephone or video conferencing and eventually the traditional court hearing in front of a judge).
Making the process of litigation easier and more accessible may at first glance seem admirable. However, we must be wary not to create a system that is over-simplified and does not do justice to the facts of a particular case. This is where your solicitor would come in, as they are there from the start of your claim to completion, delivering justice for a client however small or complex your case may be.
Cases The Online Court May Deal With
It is said that the proposed court would deal with civil hearings with a value of up to £25,000, excluding personal injury cases. This would appear to be a concern among more complex cases that find themselves down a simplistic route which is designed for quicker results. Despite this, dispute resolution needs to offer the same quality of justice as that of the traditional routes which I doubt can be said for the proposed online methods.
Whether an online court system is introduced, proper legal consultation and advice as to the merits of your case would still be essential, even for smaller claims as there may be some complex facts that require legal clarification before you start representing yourself in the litigation process whether it’s as a “litigant in person” or a “litigant online”.
You may indeed find yourself in control of your case from start to finish and save on legal fees, however you will not be free from the risks. Even where simpler methods such as “online court” may be available in the future, there are various things to bear in mind before embarking on a civil action without a solicitor. Your solicitor will be aware of the process in any claim over the recovery of money. This being governed by the CPR and as an individual litigant without a solicitor would no doubt struggle to come to terms with these rules.
What could potentially happen is that small claims worth £5000 may end up costing the claimant more money and result in paying their opponents legal fees if unsuccessful etc. if a litigant does not understand what they are doing and may in fact save money in the long run by obtaining legal advice at the outset of your claim.
If you require legal advice then please contact Levis Solicitors in Leeds, Wakefield and Manchester online here or on 0113 244 9931.