In the spotlight - Toby Yerburgh, head of family, Collyer Bristow

News Team, 10/02/2023

Toby Yerburgh is the head of the family team at Collyer Bristow. He advises clients on all areas of private family law including financial applications, separation agreements, judicial separations, contested and non-contested divorces, jurisdiction disputes, injunctions and applications relating to children. He has particular experience in prenuptial agreements.

Prior to joining Collyer Bristow, Mr Yerburgh was a partner in the family team at London law firm Wedlake Bell having previously worked and trained at Farrer & Co. 

What trends do you expect to see in the dispute resolution sector in 2023?

Courts are coming under increasing pressure post Covid, due to under-resourcing and not always successful attempts to streamline case management with IT. Practitioners are, accordingly, having to become ever more creative in finding non-court based solutions for very cost conscious clients. In this spirit, private Financial Dispute Resolution appointments (FDRs) are becoming the norm rather than the exception in 2023 and few cases will get out of the starting blocks without serious consideration of mediation on both sides. 

Do you see mediation as an increasingly important tool in dispute resolution?

Absolutely. The whole landscape of family litigation was changed when court based  FDRs (court based mediation)  were imposed in Financial Remedy cases. There was some scepticism about these initially but very rapidly it was realised that they were hugely successful in preventing cases going to final hearings. Consideration of mediation prior to the issue of proceedings is also mandatory. However, this has not let to such a significant reduction in people issuing proceedings. What is more likely to do so is the wish of lawyers to keep their clients out of the court system altogether due to increasing concerns about listing delays, cancelled hearings, un-user friendly courts and the risk of  judgements being made public.

How can clients be proactive to circumvent disputes?

Choosing lawyers who have a reputation for settling cases rather than ones that seem to always end up in court. And always keeping an open mind about any form of alternative dispute resolution suggested by their advisers.

What influence will technological advancements have on dispute resolution?

Possibly immense. It is not impossible, for example,  to conceive of AI being used in place of judges in all but the most complex of cases with little impact (save for consistency) on case outcomes. Certainly it would be possible to create an elective system where parties agreed to submit the court bundle and arguments to an AI “Judge” that was able to produce a reasoned judgement taking into account all statute law and precedents within a few minutes. AI is also potentially better than humans at telling which party is most likely to be telling the truth. 

What drew you to this area of law?

The close working relationships I develop with many of my clients and the satisfaction of helping them get through, what is for many, a truly awful time in their lives.  

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