Kings Chambers has launched a new arbitration service, with its own website, in what is believed to be the first move of its kind.
Kings Arbitration Service (KAS) offers clients a range of fixed fees, starting at £3,000 for a paper arbitration of a dispute worth less than £1m.
Colin Griffin, chief clerk at Kings Chambers, said KAS, launched yesterday, was unique in covering “the whole of litigation” rather than particular sectors.
Mr Griffin said court cases had “plummeted” since issue fees hit £10,000 for claims worth £200,000 or more.
“This is cheaper, quicker and more efficient,” he said. “Many people will still want to go to court, but it’s an alternative.”
Mr Griffin said that at a time of “spiralling costs”, clients were increasingly looking at more cost effective ways to resolve their disputes, and there were “strong rumours” that court fees would double in the “foreseeable future”.
He went on: “There are also fees to be paid to the Court Service each time an application is made and again when the case is set down for trial.
“The culture adopted by the courts has the effect of increasing costs at every juncture. Requiring mediation to be undertaken even if the parties consider there is little point to avoid being penalised in costs is a perfect example.
“We feel we’re approaching the process of litigation in an entirely new way. We want to see litigants accessing justice in a cost-managed and efficient way allowing them to pursue claims without the hindrance of large potential costs or lengthy compliance procedures.
“A reduction in costs, bureaucracy and other factors is clearly in the interests of both claimants and defendants.”
Arbitrators in the scheme included former Court of Appeal judge Sir Maurice Kay, former senior circuit judge His Honour David Gilliland QC, and QCs Paul Chaisty, Lesley Anderson and David Casement.
The fixed-fee system organises arbitrators into bands, with a top fee of £8,500 for a two-day arbitration with a ‘category A’ arbitrator. Kings, which is based in Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham, will host arbitrations in chambers or at a venue chosen by the parties.
Mr Griffin added that if the new service took off, other arbitrators would be invited to join.