Court practitioners and public to participate in civil dispute evaluation

Lawyers, alternative dispute resolution practitioners and people involved in federal court proceedings are encouraged to help evaluate the success of civil dispute resolution laws.

Lawyers, alternative dispute resolution practitioners and people involved in federal court proceedings are encouraged to help evaluate the success of civil dispute resolution laws.

The Civil Dispute Resolution Act 2011, which encourages parties to take 'genuine steps' to resolve a dispute before going to court, was introduced by the Australian Government two years ago.

"The Government introduced the Act to encourage the early resolution of disputes which is faster, less costly and less stressful than going to court and allows people to have better ownership of the negotiation process," said Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus.

"It is important that we ensure the Act is working as intended, so we are asking legal professionals, alternative dispute resolution practitioners and members of the public to help evaluate its success."

The evaluation will include surveying and talking to those with experience applying the Act. All responses will be kept private and confidential. It will also assess the extent of the predicted impacts of the Act and inform future policy development.

"The Civil Dispute Resolution Act is an important part of the Government's access to justice agenda to encourage early dispute resolution and it's important to ensure that it is working properly," said Mr Dreyfus.

The Act requires prospective litigants to lodge a statement with the court detailing what steps they have taken to resolve their dispute or, if they haven't, the reasons why.

It does not prescribe or mandate any particular steps that people must take. Instead, it allows the parties involved to decide what common sense steps are most appropriate.

The consequences of failing to file a genuine steps statement were considered in the Federal Court of Australia case, Superior IP International Pty Limited v Ahearn Fox Patent and Trade Marks Attorneys [2012] FCA 282. In particular, it highlighted the importance of lawyers advising their clients about the requirement to file a genuine steps statement and assisting them to comply with that requirement.

The Attorney-General's Department has commissioned Australian Survey Research to conduct the evaluation.

For more information, including details on how to get involved, go to www.ag.gov.au/cdract.