Designated judges
Electronic Working Scheme
Other changes

The ninth edition of the Admiralty and Commercial Courts Guide, which was published in April 2011, includes a number of significant changes. The guide is intended to provide direction on the conduct of proceedings in the Admiralty Court and the Commercial Court, and to establish the practice of those courts within the framework of the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) and practice directions.

Designated judges

The allocation of a case to a designated judge - a process known as 'docketing' - enables the judge in question to become familiar with the parties, documents and issues. Particularly in more complex cases, this approach is more efficient than the usual arrangement, whereby judges often come to a hearing 'cold'.

The previous edition of the guide provided that docketing should be used only in cases of an "exceptional size or complexity". The new edition removes the reference to "exceptional" cases and provides that parties can apply for a case to be assigned to a designated judge when one or more of the following factors indicate that this is appropriate:

  • the size or complexity of the case;
  • its potential to give rise to numerous pre-trial applications;
  • the likelihood that specific assignments will give rise to substantially lower costs;
  • the fact that identical or similar issues have arisen in other cases; and
  • other case management considerations.

The new regime gives the court discretion to assign a designated judge to a case where it deems this appropriate.(1)

Electronic Working Scheme

The Electronic Working Scheme was introduced under Practice Direction 5C, which came into force on April 1 2010. The scheme has now been incorporated into the guide. In particular, it allows:

  • proceedings to be started and all subsequent steps to be taken electronically;
  • claim forms to be filed electronically and documents to be filed outside normal court opening hours; and
  • parties and non-parties to inspect the electronic record, track the progress of a claim and obtain copies of documents from the court file.


The requirements of Practice Direction 31B on electronic disclosure, which came into force in October 2010, have been incorporated into the guide. In accordance with the overarching principles of efficiency and cost-effectiveness, the new rules provide that when considering disclosure of electronic documents, the parties and their legal representatives must consider a number of principles, including the following:

  • Electronic disclosure should be managed efficiently in order to minimise costs;
  • Technology should be used to ensure that document management is undertaken efficiently and effectively; and
  • Disclosure of electronic documents which are irrelevant to proceedings may impose an excessive burden of time and cost on the party to which disclosure is given.

Other changes

Other changes to the guide affect the following areas:

  • Lists of issues should identify the principal issues in a structured manner. For example, a list might be structured by reference to headings or chapters, and might include a separate section listing areas of common ground between the parties. Long lists of detailed issues should be avoided.(2)
  • Orders should bear the name of the judge who made them (following the designation 'Commercial Court'), and should state whether the order was made in public, in private or on paper.(3)
  • The new rules are flexible on disclosure schedules, which may be deemed unnecessary in certain cases.(4)
  • Bundles of authorities should not exceed 300 pages and should be double-sided. Where the authority is reported, .pdf format copies or photocopies of the original report (with headnote) should be provided. Where the authority is unreported, the official transcript(5) should be provided.(6)
  • Skeleton arguments should be prepared in an easily legible format. No skeleton argument should be served in a font smaller than 12 point or with line spacing of less than 1.5.(7)
  • Core bundles should be prepared and provided by the time that the first trial skeleton argument is lodged.(8)


Most of the changes to the guide reflect amendments made to the Civil Procedure Rules and related practice directions. The implementation of the Electronic Working Scheme and the wider provisions on docketing also reflect the recommendations in Lord Justice Jackson's Review of Civil Litigation Costs.

Many of the changes reflect the guide's stated intention of "promot[ing] the efficient conduct of litigation in the Admiralty and Commercial Courts". The emphasis on practicality and efficiency is particularly evident in the new rules on designated judges and the imposition of the Electronic Working Scheme, but is also demonstrated by the more minor changes to the requirements for lists of issues and disclosure schedules. The changes show that - in theory, at least - the Commercial Court is prepared to adopt a modern and flexible approach.

For further information on this topic please contact Helen Fairhead at Reynolds Porter Chamberlain LLP by telephone (+44 20 3060 6000), fax (+44 20 3060 7000) or email ([email protected]).


(1) Paragraph D4.2.

(2) Paragraph D6.1.

(3) Paragraph D19.1.

(4) Paragraph E2.3.

(5) For example, the version available from

(6) Paragraph F13.4.

(7) Appendix 9.2(d).

(8) Appendix 10.4.