Last Friday saw the pre-trial review in Socrates Training Limited v The Law Society – the first fast-track case in the Competition Appeal Tribunal. The fast track procedure was introduced in 2015 and is designed to bring smaller competition cases to trial more swiftly and cost-efficiently.
Socrates, a company providing professional training to law firms, brings the claim under Chapter I and Chapter II of the Competition Act 1998 in relation to the training element of The Law Society’s Conveyancing Quality Scheme, an accreditation scheme for conveyancing solicitors.
The President of the Tribunal, Mr Justice Roth directed that the expert economic evidence in the case will be given via ‘hot-tubbing’, where the parties’ expert economists take to the witness box together. They will be questioned first by the Tribunal itself and subsequently by counsel for each party in turn. Mr Justice Roth has used ‘hot-tubbing’ previously, in last year’s Streetmap v Google case (further information here). At paragraph 47 of that judgment (available here), Roth J said of the ‘hot-tub’, “I believe that is the first time this has been done in a competition case in the UK, and it led to a constructive exchange which considerably shortened the time taken by the economic evidence at trial”.
This ‘hot-tub’ direction follows a previous direction that, given that this case is being fast-tracked, expert economic evidence is limited to the issues of market definition and dominance. Consistently with the CAT’s intention that fast-track cases be closely case managed, at earlier Case Management Hearings the Tribunal also directed specific disclosure in place of standard disclosure and gave early directions as to which witnesses the parties could call.
The trial will begin on Tuesday 8 November and is listed for 4 days.
Philip Woolfe is acting for Socrates.
Kassie Smith QC and Imogen Proud are acting for The Law Society.