LAWYERS should collaborate more to make going to court a “last resort”, the new president of Bournemouth and District Law Society has said.

Simon Steele-Williams is urging lawyers to work closer together to save clients time and money.

Mr Steele-Williams, a litigation solicitor and partner at Dorset-based Coles Miller, said alternative dispute resolution, mediation and collaborative law were “in the spirit of the age”.

He said: “Litigation – going to court – should always be the last resort, not the first. The approach of the lawyer should be to try to settle whenever possible. It is in the best interests of the client.”

He said court hearings could be expensive, time consuming and stressful for clients, whereas alternative dispute resolution, mediation and collaborative law were much less confrontational.

Several legal changes have been designed to reduce the number of cases going through courts and tribunals.

Since May 6, employees with grievances against their employer have been obliged to contact the conciliation service ACAS before seeking an employment tribunal.

If conciliation goes ahead, the two parties are given up to a month to resolve their differences.

Mediation is also playing a greater role in family law cases, with new rules that separating couples should attend mediation information and assessment meetings (MIAMs) to learn about the benefits of the new meditation process before going to court.

The field of family law has also seen the introduction of collaborative law, under which a couple commits not to go to court and their lawyers work together to help reach an agreement.