May I start by thanking your new Chairman, Eason Rajah QC, for inviting me back this year to the Chancery Bar Association’s Annual Conference, despite the mixed reception that I received for last year’s speech. You will remember that, on that occasion, I touched a sensitive nerve.
What I said remains true today. Some of you will recall the essence of it. I said that “the highest quality barristers practising in the Business and Property Courts need to step up to the plate”, and that if they did not do so, they would be “destroying the very infrastructure that has allowed them to prosper”, and that “being a judge in our Business and Property Courts across England and Wales is one of the best jobs you can find”. I am pleased to say that I am optimistic about the latest High Court competition, and we made some excellent appointments in last year’s section 9(4) competition. So, things are, I hope, looking up. But there is no cause to be complacent. I continue to urge you and the most talented solicitors, as I did last year, to “readjust your horizons, and to positively consider the judiciary as a central career aspiration”.
I want to spend the rest of the time this evening considering another knotty but important, and indeed not wholly unconnected, topic, namely the way we resolve disputes in the Business and Property Courts in England and Wales.