Birmingham Mercantile Court has long been a leader in the development of guidance and procedures for the lawyers who appear there. This is largely thanks to the presence there of His Honour Judge Simon Brown QC who takes the view that lawyers are entitled to know in advance what is expected of them as a corollary to the courts’ expectation that lawyers will comply with their obligations. It was, of course, Judge Brown who made the observation, in his judgment in Earles v Barclay’s Bank plc, that “those practising in civil courts are expected to know the rules and practice them; it is gross incompetence not to”.
Judge Brown has taken a lead with the development of a Mercantile Court website, the drafting of standard orders (which serve the purpose, inter alia, of making sure that nothing is overlooked by the parties or the court) and in the development of the costs management regime which is now enshrined in the rules.
Judge Brown and the Birmingham Mercantile Court have now produced a Case Management Conference Notice which pulls together the various obligations expected of parties before and at CMCs. Judge Brown says that a CMC is a business meeting at which the efficient and proportionate conduct of the case is planned by collaboration between lawyers and court. That is the principal thrust of the notice, although no one looking at it will be left in doubt that failure to comply with the terms of the Notice (and therefore of the rules which underlie it) may give rise to sanctions.
Expect to see something similar from most civil courts in England and Wales.