Lord Woolf of Barnes was born in 1933 to a North of England family. He attended Fettes, the Edinburgh public school, then read law at University College London. He did his National Service in the Royal Hussars where he was seconded to the Army legal branch. He began practising at the Bar in 1956, initially he had a general cicuit practice on the Oxford Circuit .
In 1974 he became the First Treasury Junior Counsel - the lawyers who advises the Government on civil matters. By 1992, at the young age, for a judge, of 59, he became a Law Lord - a position he recently gave up because of the onerous nature of his other duties.
Lord Woolf's great sense of morality may come from his family roots. His great grandfather, who emigrated from Eastern Europe to Newcastle upon Tyne, had a sense of duty and diligence which has permeated his descendants. Of Lord Woolf's three sons, one is a solicitor, the others are at the Bar. His wife Marguerie is a JP.
Lord Woolf has always displayed phenomenal energy. He is extremely receptive to ideas and is well-known for his humanitarian views. Of all the judges, it is primarily he who has been outspoken about the need of judicial review to check the power of government.
Out of court, his approach can be very informal. He listens to Radio 3 in his office and enjoys visits to Glyndebourne during the opera season. He is also famous as the bicycling judge who wears a crash hat.
Lord Woolf's most recent endeavours have culminated in his recommendations on the system in our civil courts. In brief his recommendations are:
(i) Litigation divided into fast-track cases (£3,000 to £10,000) and multi-track cases (more than £10,000).
(ii) Fast-track cases will be subject to a streamlined procedure including an abbreviated trial, normally restricted to three hours, within 20 to 30 weeks at a fixed cost.
(iii)Sanctions to be imposed by judges in cases where lawyers fail to meet strict deadlines.
(iv) Lawyers must make a precise pleading in a statement of case.
(v) Judges given discretionary powers to allocate the burden of costs at the end of the case by reference to the conduct of the parties.
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