No5 Chambers has launched a fixed-fee private early neutral evaluation (ENE) service for claims worth up to £25,000.
Echoing the financial dispute resolution appointment in family proceedings, the scheme aims to give the parties to litigation the opportunity to identify and resolve the real issues in the case in a time and cost-efficient manner.
Spearheaded by barrister Philip Mantle, it provides an independent, non-binding, evaluation of the case to enable the parties to better understand the merits of their positions and the implications of continuing the litigation.
Mr Mantle said: “The idea behind this service is to offer the parties, for a fixed fee, an opportunity to better gauge the issues and merits of their case without the need to commit significant resources to the uncertainty of a final hearing and can improve the prospects for settlement.”
Inspired by the report of the Civil Justice Council’s ADR working group, the scheme is intended for solicitors to offer to their clients. It is charging £375 per party for claims valued below £10,000, and £500 per party for claims worth between £10,000 and £25,000. The price for higher-value claims will be bespoke.
The fee includes three hours of reading and preparation (bundle limited to 150 pages) plus a one-hour meeting where the preliminary evaluation is given.
If, immediately following the evaluation, further discussion is considered beneficial by the parties, meeting rooms can be made available at No5 Chambers.
Last month, a High Court judge said  a battle between a widow and stepson over a large estate “cries, indeed screams out” for the kind of “robust, judge-led” processes used to settle family law disputes.
Mrs Justice Parker called on the Civil Procedure Rules Committee to clarify whether an ENE hearing could be “considered compulsory” for non-family civil proceedings.