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English law is a commodity and we have exported it for years. Its strength derives from its independence and predictability. It is a product of the adversarial system. Hugh Laddie (BCCI – where the blame really lies, Legal Week, 25 May) suggests going “back to the drawing board… the adversarial system is past its sell-by date”. But replace it with what? Judge-led inquiries or investigations of the facts? Recent history has given us Hutton, the farce of the Bloody Sunday inquiry (neither cheap nor respected). After all, why does the ECJ look to our common-law adversarial approach with some envy? Woolf has worked. We cannot just look at Equitable or BCCI – they are quirks. The bulk of English litigation is low value and has been successfully managed by the new CPR. Woolf was careful not to throw the baby out with the bath water. Commercial lawyers still wanted the ability to have their cases tested – they got that. But there was a new deal. Litigators had to be more honest with the courts and with each other. Equitable and BCCI survived attacks to kill them off early – the courts were not able to test the evidence. Those running the cases were possibly guilty of Micawberism – “if we hold on, something may turn up”. Woolf gave judges and practitioners the tools and the tool box. But that is all they are – do not blame the tools.

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