Dispute Resolution Committee Report

Tobias Haines

Committee Chair

During 20/21, the Dispute Resolution Committee (‘DRC’) has gone from strength to strength. I have recently taken up the post of Chair of the DRC and have my work cut out in trying to follow in the footsteps of my predecessor Sophie Samani. I must express my utmost thanks to Sophie, on behalf of the DRC and Birmingham Law Society, for working tirelessly in reinvigorating and re- establishing our committee. The DRC now meets regularly, partakes in consultations and enjoys an enthusiastic and growing membership – Sophie has been an integral part of that success.

With the advent of COVID-19 turning our world upside down, the dispute resolution sector can fairly be said to have faced significant challenges. It has been no secret for many years that litigation has remained archaic in its processes and largely paper-based. Efforts have been made in the past to modernise the court system and progress has been slow; the Government has recently pushed for modernisation, but COVID-19 has truly forced us into the 21st century with many hearings now being routinely undertaken remotely by way of telephone and video conferences.

This brings us neatly into the focus of the DRC’s meetings during 20/21, which has largely focused on reacting to the COVID-19 crisis. The DRC is extremely grateful to Birmingham Civil Justice Centre which has worked hard to maintain communication with practitioners and keep them updated. I also give particular thanks to DRC member District Judge Lumb who has been an invaluable means of communication between Birmingham Civil Justice Centre and the DRC; he regularly attends our meetings despite a busy schedule and is always willing to provide helpful information and updates – we are indebted to him for his hard work and assistance.

As we hopefully move out of lockdown, the DRC is keen to see that the progress that has been made in terms of modernisation does not unravel, and as such we look forward to seeing more permanent and positive change in the civil justice system – and we will push for that. To that end the DRC will be holding an event in November to discuss what has been learnt from the pandemic and how we go forward – Sophie will be leading this initiative, having conceived it.

Finally, I give my sincerest thanks to all of the DRC members who volunteer their valuable time despite very busy lives and careers, particularly during these difficult times; they are the heart and soul of the DRC, which could not exist without them.

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