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Guildhall Commercial Seminar, 19 October 2016

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Paragon Costs were proud to sponsor Guildhall Chambers’ Commercial Seminar hosted at the MShed in Bristol on Wednesday 19 October. Guildhall organised the 9th version of this popular event and attracted an impressive line-up of speakers from across the commercial sector.

His Honour Judge Havelock Allan QC, familiar to those who attend the Bristol Mercantile Court, chaired the seminar and gave a warm-hearted welcome to the day’s keynote speaker Sir William Blair. Sir William’s attendance represented the second year in a row that the head judge in the Commercial Court has spoken at this regional event. His message was one of positivity and confidence in the evolution of the Commercial Court across the country, particularly as it continues to adapt to the modern requirements of paperless court rooms, e-filing and decentralised justice.

The sector-specific presentations followed Sir William's keynote address, and started with a review of the use of Limitation arguments in commercial litigation by Guildhall Chambers' John Virgo. Mark Beaumont of Annecto Legal followed this with advice on third party funding in commercial litigation and used John’s example of Limitation to demonstrate the risks and thought processes that litigators must go through when considering the most appropriate method of funding of commercial cases in the modern financial landscape.

The second talk saw Hugh Sims QC of Guildhall team up with Nicholas Yapp of Gordon Dadds. They had worked together in a recent matter concerning the costs consequences that may be faced by a solicitor or parties that issue commercial claims where no actual authority to do so existed, and used this example to explore the issue more generally. The duo addressed the various ways in which solicitors may not actually be representing a client company due to issues with board or delegated authority, and how unintentionally claiming to act for that client without such authority by issuing proceedings could amount to breach of a warranty of authority made to the Court or opponent. The strategic use of seeking either wasted or non-party costs orders in these circumstances demonstrated the additional level of risk that solicitors could face when signing up these clients at the start of the litigation.

Lastly Gerard McMeel and Holly Doyle, both of Guildhall Chambers, explored the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal’s most recent rulings on the interpretation of contracts and implied terms. Combining Shakespeare, audience participation and a rather eye-popping example of the long-term effects of compound interest, Gerard and Holly provided the historical context to this pivotal issue of commercial litigation before analysing how the Courts' recent decisions have impacted on the practicalities of contract drafting and construction.

After the lunch break, the delegates were offered a selection of workshops hosted by members of Guildhall. Paragon’s representatives discussed the possibilities of using ATE insurance policies as adequate security for costs in a session chaired by Ross Fentem and Jay Jagasia. Following a summary of the surprisingly frequent development of relevant case authority in the time since ATE policies were introduced as funding options in commercial litigation, Ross and Jay left the delegates to await the outcome of their recent involvement in a security for costs application on this very issue. Judgment is due next week!

The seminar, as in previous years, provided an interesting and engaging morning for those in attendance. The inclusion of costs issues in two of the presentations and one of the workshops demonstrated the increasing importance that commercial litigators have to place on costs consequences from the outset of any claim.