Julian Acratopulo

Julian Acratopulo

President of the London Solicitors Litigation Association and Head of the International Commercial Litigation Group at Clifford Chance

We sit down with Clifford Chance lawyer and LSLA President, Julian Acratopulo

Julian, can you please tell us a bit about your career?

I have worked in Clifford Chance’s litigation team for over 20 years, joining straight after I qualified in 1996. I am now head of the international commercial litigation group, working on both international and domestic issues.  The list of sectors I work across is broad - financial services, consumer and retail, aerospace and defence, IT and pharmaceutical sectors, acting for multi-nationals, banks, hedge funds, joint ventures and individuals across those sectors. I joined the LSLA committee nine years ago and have enjoyed the opportunity to meet a variety of people I perhaps would not have had the chance to meet otherwise. That can only be a good thing!

Why did you to choose to specialise in litigation?

I think litigators know pretty early on that disputes are their calling.  I was no exception and everyone who knew me seemed to agree.

You took over as president of the LSLA last year. How have the past 12 months been?

What has struck me during the course of the last 12 months is the degree of engagement within the profession.  The consensus appears to be that we have a great product but that we should be mindful of taking appropriate opportunities to improve it, which are consistent with how the world is changing from a social, economic and technological perspective.  In that context, we have worked hard to engage with our members and broader industry stakeholders on some key reforms, including the implementation of the disclosure pilot scheme and the ongoing review of witness statements.

Brexit means competition is growing from other jurisdictions so in your view how can the courts in England and Wales maintain their role in dispute resolution?

We were seeing competition grow in other jurisdictions long before Brexit. However, it is true that London needs to avoid complacency and take those threats seriously. In my role as the LSLA’s President it has become increasingly clear to me that London litigation is mobilising itself.  London International Disputes week in May was a clear example of that engagement and the need to make sure that we are match fit.

Last year you welcomed the two-year disclosure pilot scheme, which introduced a new set of disclosure rules in the Business and Property Courts. What’s your view twelve months on?

Over that 12 months (and prior to it), we have been at the forefront of conversations between solicitors, the judiciary and court users who want to improve our current procedural framework. Our view has not changed – we still think disclosure pilot is an important area of reform providing the court as it does with an expanded toolkit of case management options. That reform is a response to a call for change from the profession's most important stakeholders, its end users.

The legal sector is now embracing technology quicker than ever so what role is it playing in civil litigation?

Lawyers are certainly willing to embrace technological change in the courtroom. We are at a point where almost everybody knows how important it is – the key is having a developed enough infrastructure and widespread enough training to make change happen. It is difficult to uproot legacy systems overnight, and this ultimately requires a large amount of investment. But make no mistake, it is happening: the court service is on a journey to transition the court's infrastructure into the digital world.  Likewise, technology is playing an increasing role in the court room, as the profession strives to make the trial process as cost efficient as possible.

Diversity is a big issue at the moment so is enough being done to attract a wider section of society to the profession?

There is still not enough diversity across senior positions in law, and the challenges relating to ethnicity and social mobility are as acute as they have ever been. Diversity and technology must be viewed in tandem. To give a concrete example, digitisation would allow cases to be conducted online rather than at formal hearing, helping to break down the barriers that the current system perpetuates.  The more we embrace technology in this way to change the fundamentals of how our court process works, the more accessible a career in litigation will become to a more diverse pool of talent.  Ultimately, that can only be to the benefit of the profession and the right thing to do.

Finally, and on much a lighter note, how do you switch off at the end of the day?

Like any parent with teenagers, I am not sure it is a case of switching off, but more a case of switching gears!

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