Vanishing litigants? Vanishing trials? Vanishing precedent? Revisiting socio-legal debates about litigation trends in the UK and their implications

In recent years scholars have become increasingly concerned about the impact of the ‘vanishing trial’ on contemporary civil justice systems across the world. This paper updates previous accounts of this phenomenon in England and Wales before going on the address the particular concern that less trials will result in less judicial precedent. Analysis of available data shows that while the number of cases coming into the system and proceeding to trial have been on the decrease, the amount of precedent produced by the appellate courts has actually been on the increase. The article concludes with a discussion of how these data can be interpreted and calls for closer attention to be paid to the sorts of cases and litigants reaching the superior courts. These data are relevant to ongoing debate about the vanishing trial but also raise more fundamental questions about the regeneration of precedent in common law systems.