Lawyers itching for an early finish should nevertheless avoid under-estimating the length of half-day Commercial Court hearings, especially on a Friday. That’s according to the judgment in Kazakhstan Kagazy et al. v Cooperton et al. [2020] EWHC 128 (Comm), where Mr Justice Andrew Baker was distinctly unimpressed with the parties’ time estimates.

The case concerned an application for relief from sanctions following lengthy and high value enforcement proceedings at the end of a multi-million dollar fraud case. The Judge commented:

15. …this was not and should never have been listed as a half-day hearing.

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Members of COMBAR, the commercial barristers’ association, have received a round-robin email in which the Judge highlights the following passage in his judgment, as endorsed by Commercial Court head, Mr Justice Teare:

16. Under-estimation of the time required to argue applications in the Commercial Court, especially those for which the parties seek a Friday listing, is a significant current problem. In the hope that it may do something to start to turn the tide in that regard, I wish to emphasise that a half-day hearing estimate in this court is supposed to mean that a maximum of 2½ hours will be required for all substantive argument, an oral judgment and the determination (with argument as required) of consequential matters. As a realistic rule of thumb, therefore, parties should not ask for a half-day hearing unless they are confident, having considered the matter with care, that substantive argument will be completed within 1½ hours maximum. It should not be assumed that judgment will be reserved; and if it is reserved, the final hour or so of hearing time not spent in court can and should be available to the judge to reflect and make key notes, fresh from the argument, for the structure and content of the judgment that he or she will then need to write. In the present case, I question in any event whether it was realistic to think that half a day was sufficient even just for the substantive argument, which took about 3½ hours.

One for commercial solictors and their colleagues to add to the lever-arch file labelled ‘Naughty things that I need to remember not to forget‘.

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Posted by Ben Amunwa

Founder and editor of Ben is a commercial and public law barrister with The 36 Group. He gives expert legal advice on employment, public law and commercial disputes to a wide range of clients.

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