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Resource Centre > Glossary > Woolf reforms

Reforms of the English civil procedure rules conducted by Lord Woolf who produced his "Access to Justice Final Report" in 1996. The purpose of the reforms was to make the civil procedure less expensive, less complex, and less lengthy. The result were the new Civil Procedure Rules 1998, which revolutionised the English civil process: by introducing a significant level of judicial case management and the judicial duty to follow the Overriding Objective to deal with cases justly. The civil procedure was set out in three tracks depending on the value and complexity of the cases: Small Claims Track, Fast Track, and Multi Track. Pre-Action Protocols have been introduced for specific types of cases.

While there is quite a wide consensus that the Woolf Reforms did lead to a decreased complexity and more proportionate length of civil procedure, as well as to a greater number of settled cases, one remaining challenge are the costs of litigation. These rather increased as a result of front-loading of costs through the application of Pre-Action Protocols. The Jackson Review of Costs of Litigation is aimed to resolve the costs problem.