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Avoiding a Dickens of a Trial

View profile for Casian Sala

Beneath the mistletoe, carols, chestnuts and turkey there lurks a thousand hidden dangers – factor in the infamous British capacity for ale and December makes for a bumper crop of PI cases.

One survey of Christmas accidents found 142 injuries from not removing the pins from new shirts, four broken arms from cracker-pulling accidents, 18 serious burns from trying on a new jumper while smoking and at least five injuries from out-of-control Scalextric cars.

Alas, the fireside glow is not necessarily restricted to the hearth: in 2011/2012 faulty fairy lights caused an estimated 20 fires, while Christmas trees, decorations and cards were responsible for 47 house fires. It’s tempting to welcome the trend for virtual entertainment, since it is considerably harder to injure oneself with an iPad than with a new set of golf clubs.

In an attempt to limit the number of more serious accidents, agencies such as Addaction and the ambitiously-named Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents have issued sombre guidance – and rather sweetly the NHS seems to consider ‘excitement’ a key cause of Christmas calamity.

But it’s not just PI lawyers for whom the holidays will not necessarily be a rest. The Christmas break can bring strain to families who may need urgent legal advice from family lawyers on matters such as contact disputes – and sadly there will still be those prepared to get behind the wheel after a festive drink.

With the developments in legal information technology we’ve seen in the past two or three years, Christmas need no longer be a ‘shut down’ period from which lawyers and litigation support partners must hurriedly recover in the bleary weeks of January. With innovations such as 24-hour access to shared secure documentation and developments in eDiscovery, eDisclosure and digital bundle technology, it is possible to ensure that unavoidable work can be undertaken over the holiday with minimal anxiety – and that the New Year brings a smooth and efficient return to work.

In the meantime, all at Legastat wish our clients and partners a peaceful, merry and accident-free Christmas – and we look forward to working together in the coming year.

A scant few shopping days left, and even the most confirmed Humbug struggles to resist the lure of port and mince pies in the glow of the BBC’s festive programming.  From Snaresbrook to Durham, litigators across the land are waiting impatiently for the day they can hang up their wigs and forget the demands of chambers and court for a few blissfully overstuffed days.

Those with an eye to their holiday reading may well turn to A Christmas Carol to get themselves in the mood. Not for nothing was Dickens once credited with having invented Christmas: William Makepeace Thackeray declared that Scrooge’s mishaps “caused a wonderful outpouring of Christmas good feeling; of Christmas punch-brewing; an awful slaughter of Christmas turkeys; and roasting and basting of Christmas beef”.

But as any Dickensian lawyer will know, it is Bleak House which has most resonance for the profession, featuring as it does a satirical depiction of the infamous Jarndyce v Jarndyce trial. Its interminable hearings and submissions, and endless bundles carried to and fro by worn-out clerks, has become a by-word for lengthy trials that drain litigants of every last penny.

It’s been suggested Dickens drew on a real case which collapsed after 117 years due to lack of funds – and nor are we immune.  Our modern courts may not fall prey to quite such excesses, but with a judge warning only recently against incurring disproportionate litigation costs firms must still guard against inefficiencies.

Happily, litigants and lawyers alike have more tools at their disposal if they’re to avoid a twenty-first century Jarndyce. The expertise of litigation partners does much to mitigate against unwarranted expenditure and lengthy delays, and key to ensuring a case runs effectively and efficiently is the early support of litigation support professionals such as Legastat, who can advise on budgeting and how best to harness the latest in legal tech.

The Dickensian exploits of bumbling clerks, grasping lawyers and venal litigants might make for amusing fireside reading as the nights draw in – but fortunately have no place in the twenty-first century courts.