By Steve Beahan (Partner), Katie Byrne (Senior Associate) and Rob Coleridge (Senior Associate) at Irwin Mitchell 

2019 is set to be a big year of change for litigators, particularly in the Business & Property Courts.

In January, in addition to the already well known new disclosure pilot scheme, a new capped costs pilot scheme will come into play (subject to parliamentary approval and on a voluntary basis) for cases valued at under £250,000. 

Parties' costs will be capped by default at £80,000.  If successful, this scheme will almost certainly become obligatory, potentially for cases valued at up to £500,000.

Both the new costs and disclosure pilot schemes drive at ensuring the courts offer a commercial and effective way of resolving disputes.  This must be welcomed; if the economy is to thrive and the common law is to develop in line with innovation, businesses must have cost effective access to justice and this should not be a matter only for the courts to deliver.

Such access to justice has already been achieved in many areas of litigation.  Now commercial lawyers must also step up to the plate and provide cost effective litigation advice and case management services, which take a sophisticated view of risk.  

Following the development of the alternative litigation funding market over the last 10 years, there are already a host of solutions available and, for more and more cases, it is simply wrong to assert the old excuse that commercial litigation is too complicated for alternative funding. The excellent service expected of a leading firm can be delivered at the right cost.

This will undoubtedly upset the traditional fees and hourly rate model. However, change is inevitable and good, and the lawyers who embrace it will prosper.  As will their clients.