A new edition of the Chancery Guide was published and came into force on 29 July, just before the start of the summer court recess. The first new edition since 2016, the Guide has been wholly re-written by a working group which was led by the editors, Fancourt J and Master Kaye, and included Chris Bushell and Maura McIntosh of Herbert Smith Freehills.
The new Guide aims to align the content of the Guide with those for the other courts in the Business and Property Courts, including the new edition of the Commercial Court Guide published in February, though there are many areas of practice that remain different and so different guidance is appropriate. It also takes account of various changes since the previous edition, including technological changes and new practices that have evolved, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic.
So, for example, the Guide specifies that procedural hearings with a time estimate of half a day or less will take place remotely unless the court orders otherwise. Matters listed to be considered at the pre-trial review include the use of technology and whether any parts of the trial should be heard remotely or by a hybrid hearing, and any arrangements for witnesses to give evidence remotely. There is detailed guidance on the preparation and conduct of remote and hybrid hearings in an appendix to the Guide.
Parties and their legal representatives are encouraged to minimise the use of paper. Bundles for hearings and trials are to be filed only electronically, unless a hard copy bundle is specifically requested by the court. An appendix sets out detailed guidance on the preparation and delivery of bundles, both electronic and hard copy.
The new Guide reflects procedural reforms implemented in recent years, such as PD 57AC on trial witness statements which was introduced in April 2021 and the disclosure pilot at PD 51U (soon to be incorporated on a permanent basis as PD 57AD).
There are new detailed provisions relating to “ordinary” applications (of a half day or less) and longer or “heavy” applications, designed in part to align the practice of the Chancery Division with other courts in the Business and Property Courts. There are also new default page limits for skeleton arguments and statements of case.
While the new Guide continues to use the term “ADR” (or alternative dispute resolution), rather than “NDR” (or negotiated dispute resolution) as adopted by the Commercial Court Guide, it contains clear encouragement for the parties to consider ADR at all stages of a claim.
The court’s note announcing the new Guide makes it clear that court users should not assume previous guidance remains the same in all areas, and should read the relevant parts of the Guide when using the courts.