Litigants in Person in the Commercial Court
Litigants in person are parties who represent themselves in court, without obtaining legal representation (whether through a barrister or solicitor). It is not common for a litigant to represent themselves without legal representation in the Commercial Court due to the nature of the cases in the Commercial Court, which deals with transactions arising out of trade and commerce, and also because they are often complicated or demand some degree of legal understanding. However, it is permitted for an individual litigant in person to represent themselves, whether as a claimant or defendant, if they wish to do so. A company who wishes to act in person needs the permission of the Court to do so: see Civil Procedure Rule 39.6 (external link).
There is a section devoted to the resources available to litigants in person within the judiciary website.
Litigants in person are encouraged to seek pro bono (free of charge) legal assistance and the Commercial Court may specifically recommend this course to parties where it considers it appropriate. The Commercial Court, in conjunction with COMBAR and Advocate, operates a scheme to provide assistance and representation free of charge for litigants in person who are parties to applications with a time estimate of one day or less (and indeed such assistance has been known to be provided for longer hearings). It is worth making enquiries of this nature at the earliest possible stage in proceedings. Full details of the scheme can be found by reference to the following links:
- The COMBAR website (external link)
- News story – Pro Bono legal work being extended to the Commercial Court
It is desirable that if a person seeks to represent themselves without legal representation that they try to familiarise themselves with the Commercial Court process. This is fully set out in the Commercial Court Guide (“the Guide”) and this website includes FAQ’s (frequently asked questions) which outline the court’s procedures and refer to relevant parts of the Guide. The processes with which litigants in person should become familiar include those which concern: (i) setting out their case in the appropriate pleading (whether a Claim Form and Particulars of Claim in the case of claimants; or a Defence if defending a claim): (ii) providing evidence in the form of witness statements in due course; and (iii) providing a Skeleton Argument setting out the parties’ position before any hearing. The Guide section M deals specifically with litigants in person.
The Court will be mindful of the fact that a party is unrepresented and seek to use its case management powers, as appropriate, to deal with the matter in a just and proportionate manner, including in relation to taking evidence (see the Guide section M). Litigants in person will not be required to file or provide documents electronically, but can contact the Listing Office for alternative arrangements.