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‘Open for business’: City litigators react to new Business and Property Courts

City litigation heavyweights have backed the judiciary’s decision to rebrand specialist civil courts within the High Court, creating an umbrella establishment called the Business and Property Courts of England and Wales.

As part of the revamp, judges will be allowed to go beyond their usual remit and be cross-deployed to sit on appropriate business and property cases based on their expertise.

The reform will affect the specialist courts and lists of the High Court, namely the Commercial Court, the Technology and Construction Court and courts of the Chancery Division that deal with financial services, intellectual property, competition and insolvency.

These Business and Property Courts will feature across England and Wales, with judges sitting in Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Bristol and Cardiff. Expansions to Newcastle and Liverpool are likely to be made in the near future.

Lord Chancellor Liz Truss insisted that the changes are ‘vital’ for the legal services of England and Wales, and emphasised the impact the reforms will have on cities throughout the nation.

Clifford Chance commercial litigation partner Simon Davis commented: ‘The resolution of disputes is a thoroughly competitive business. You have quite a wide range of choices to decide where your dispute is going to be solved. You’re going to want businesses to solve disputes in your jurisdiction, so they are attracted to come here and do business. Therefore I think it is a very good idea for the courts of England and Wales to be – as Sadiq Khan puts it – open for business.’

Herbert Smith Freehills banking litigation partner Damien Byrne Hill (pictured) said: ‘The Rolls building is very recognisable, has very good facilities and has been a welcome development. This is putting a name around it so it’s not associated with a building but rather the courts operating inside it. It’s seeking to make sure the courts of England and Wales are clearly organised and advertised to the world.

‘It’s good to accommodate them all under one banner. Conceptually it’s sensible to give them a collective title.’

Simon Bushell, commercial litigation partner at Signature Litigation, added: ‘Our judiciary is clearly alive to the importance of reaching the widest international commercial audience.

‘I suspect that the majority of practising litigation lawyers are concerned to ensure that the terms “business” and “property” are not intended to set parameters for the commercial context in which our courts have for many years now succeeded in attracting the most complex and high stakes disputes.’