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Lawyers often consider legal issues in isolation, without regard to their connection with other areas of law. Civil procedure is no exception. Pre-Action Protocols required by the English Civil Procedure Rules are deficient in that they interface poorly with the European rules on jurisdiction by unnecessarily exposing a party wishing to engage the jurisdiction of the English court to potentially abusive actions on the part of a defendant who wishes to frustrate this intention. This calls into question the future of England as a jurisdiction for major international commercial litigation. However, this situation can be readily remedied by the introduction of a new form of starting process.
The Civil Procedure Rules (1998) (“CPR”)1 describe themselves as a new procedural code.2 They flow from Lord Woolf’s Access to Justice Report3 and have been described as “the greatest change in civil procedure since the 1870s, when the common law and equity jurisdictions were fused in a combined High Court, or since the withering of civil juries during the last 100 or so years”.4
Lord Woolf sought a fundamental change to legal culture.5 The CPR adopt a “cards on the table” approach:6 litigation is to be viewed as a last resort.7 The Practice Direction on Pre-Action Conduct is very much a part of this aim. The Practice Direction and associated Pre-Action Protocols are designed “[t]o build on and increase the benefits of early but well