The combination of an increase in contested cases, and a shortage of judges and other court resources, has resulted in it taking longer than ever to take cases to trial.

Figures from the first quarter of 2019 show that it now takes an average of 58.5 weeks to reach trial in multi- or fast-track cases, and an average of 36.9 weeks to bring a small claim to trial.  Not only are these average times (meaning that many cases will take longer than that), but these figures also don't take into account the time spent on a case before court proceedings are commenced (which is often several months of "pre-action" work).

There has been increased investment in the courts, but this has not yet materialised in reduced waiting times for trials.  Until it does, businesses considering bringing or defending court proceedings will need to be realistic about the length of time it will take, and the amount of management time they will need to commit.

With it likely to take over a year to bring a claim to trial, alternative dispute resolution ("ADR") methods such as mediation, expert determination, or arbitration are becoming increasingly attractive to businesses as a way of bringing disputes to a swift and commercial resolution.

If you have any queries about litigation or ADR options, please get in touch with me at m.axe@gardner-leader.co.uk.