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Meet the new Liverpool Law Society Chair of the Civil Litigation Committee

Jonathan Berkson

Jonathan Berkson

Bermans is proud to announce that its Civil Litigation Partner has been appointed as Chair of the Liverpool Law Society’s Civil Litigation Committee. This committee oversees and comments on changes in Civil Litigation law and procedure and represents civil litigators in the Liverpool region.

Jonathan Berkson was born and brought up on the Wirral having attended Wellington School and Calday Grammar before graduating in law from Bristol Poly and completing his Law Society Finals in 1988 at the College of Law, Chester.

Jonathan is married to a Liverpool solicitor and has 2 children aged 23 and 20 who have so far chosen to avoid the law, which is surprising given the number of Liverpool lawyers, past and present, in Jonathan’s immediate and extended family.

Jonathan qualified in 1990 whilst working for Louis Berkson & Glode (a firm that his grandfather founded in Liverpool) but moved to Hill Dickinson in Liverpool in 1991 to act for business clients. Whilst at Hill Dickinson, Jonathan discovered an interest in asset finance litigation and in 2013 he moved to the Liverpool based Commercial firm Bermans, which boasts a nationwide recognised niche in asset finance law, where he works as a Partner in the Finance and Litigation teams.

He has been in litigation since 1990 and is highly qualified to lead the Liverpool Law Society’s civil litigators in this ever-changing field of practice. Whilst Jonathan’s work is mainly in the High Court’s Business and Property Court (KBD) the litigation work he has been involved in has been varied and examples include:

  • Acting for a US commercial financier in a claim under a Connecticut law guarantee against a UK based guarantor. The Agreement and guarantee were challenged by the guarantor but after 2 High Court trials and a Court of Appeal ruling, Jonathan’s client was successful in obtaining judgment. (Porter Capital v Masters 2017 EWHC 2215)
  • Jonathan acted for Bibby Financial Services, a Liverpool based financier, in the High Court and Court of Appeal where the general principles of set off were restated. The case is widely cited in the legal textbooks. (Bibby Factors Northwest Limited v HFD Limited and MCD Group Limited [2015] EWCA Civ 1908)
  • In Jivraj v Haswani – 2011 UKSC.40 –Jonathan acted for Mr Jivraj (a party to a JV agreement of 1981 which contained an arbitration clause) in the first instance through the Court of Appeal to the Supreme Court.  The main issue involved the choice of arbitrator selected and the principle that an Arbitrator is not an employee of the parties was firmly established.
  • Jonathan represented a waste management company in a procurement action. EWC were successful in the High Court persuading the High Court Judge that the Council’s procurement process was biased.  The Council challenged the High Court decision on appeal to the Court of Appeal, where the Court of Appeal held that the procurement result may be defective where an “irrelevant consideration” had subconsciously influenced the final marking of a tender.  EWC v Lancashire County Council 2010 – EWCA CIV 1381
  • Whilst Jonathan is not a personal injury litigator, he has had some experience of the practice area when he acted for a developer who developed an old gasworks site into a block of residential flats in Liverpool. Over 50 of the local residents brought a claim in the Liverpool County Court for personal injuries alleging injury from leaked contaminants from the site. Prior to trail last year the claim was discontinued by the claimants.

 Jonathan acts for both claimants and defendants and for a range of clients including financiers, manufacturers, distributors, professionals and for large corporations and owner managed businesses. He hopes that this experience will stand him in good stead to represent the committee.

When asked about his role Jonathan said:

I do not know if it is part of my Liverpool culture but when I see a wrong, I strive to change it. A role of government is to uphold the Rule of Law. Whilst in Liverpool are supported by an excellent team of civil servants and judges at the Vernon Street courts alas, we cannot always litigate at home and so come across other court centres. When doing so, in many court centres, the delays in getting cases dealt with are intolerable and an embarrassment for the profession who have to try and explain them to our frustrated clients. Slow justice is no justice one might conclude. This committee will strive to understand the causes for the delays beyond Liverpool and see if they can be properly explained or improved. Also, the recovery of legal costs by successful litigants is becoming harder with the expansion of fixed fees and the inability to claim costs on the Small Claims Track (which include claims up to £10,000). The committee will be keeping recoverability of legal costs under review.

Having been awarded Lawyer of the Year in 2013 by the society, I am now delighted to be able to give something back. It is an honour to have been asked.

This article cannot conclude without mention of the fact that Jonathan is a keen golfer and has Captained the Liverpool Law Golf Society where he still plays.

Bermans wish him well for his term of office.

Contact Jonathan.