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DWF comments on the Practice Direction Update

31 March 2022

Jonathan Head, senior associate at DWF, comments on the recently released Practice Direction Update (142nd), that will, from 4 April 2022, compel legally represented claimants in the County Court to use Damages Claims Portal (DCP) for claims which come within the scope of PD 51ZB.

Jonathan said:

"Greater digitalisation of the claims journey is a positive step forward. Access to and swift administration of justice are likely to be assisted by the move to electronic service. The electronic transmission of directions and other orders will be very welcome.

"However, such changes require careful planning within law firms, as well as at the courts. The systems need to be robust, integrated, and accessible. Practitioners need to be able to test the system itself and develop their own processes. There is a need to train staff and educate clients, and time is required to develop IT integration between the DCP and case management systems.

"Also, this week, HMCTS has indicated that defendants will be compelled to use the DCP "shortly". This will have far-reaching consequences for law firms and their clients (particularly professional litigants). This is a significant change to the way claims are commenced and responded to, and should not be pushed through with undue haste.

"Thankfully, at present, if the defendant does not consent to using the DCP, the claim is served in the "traditional" way; however, that is likely to change, and steps will need to be taken by law firms and their clients to get ready for compulsion.

"Making the DCP in its present form mandatory, either for claimant or defendant practitioners is premature. Further time is required for testing, feedback, and development. Too few claims have progressed through the DCP to the directions stage to have confidence in the system. There remain a number of changes to the DCP that DWF has proposed, which would not only improve the process itself, but offer opportunities to make the electronic process more effective than the "traditional" approach.

"In terms of practical guidance, in light of the requirement for defendants to consent to the use of the DCP, this may change how solicitors are nominated and may mean closer discussions between clients and their solicitors prior to the issue of proceedings to enable consent to be given."

read more in our recent update

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