The introduction of the UK Supreme Court brought with it a more pronounced leadership role in the shape of the President, than even as powerful a senior law lord as Tom Bingham had commanded.

As part of a research project to study the role of the President in the first decade of the Court, Professor Alan Paterson, author of Final Judgment, the Last Law Lords and the Supreme Court (Hart Publishing ,2013) delivered a lecture in December 2019 to the UCL Judicial Institute, on “Presidency and the Supreme Court: Lord Neuberger’s Legacy”. Paterson concluded that:

“Ironically, it may be that posterity will not recall his Presidency for his contribution to the development of the law so much as for his role in safeguarding and enhancing  the reputation of the Court through an inimical leadership style – seen quintessentially in Miller (No.1)  –  which combined collegiality in a broad sense with a determination to uphold the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary. What he created (with the help of his colleagues) was a new way of decision-making in the Apex Court of the UK. Eschewing the individualism of the Law Lords on the one hand and the European style judgments of the Court, on the other, he produced a via media, unique in the common law world. He took the part-formed versions of team-working and group decision-making which had evolved between 2009 and 2012 and transformed them through an elliptical style of leadership by “nudge” or example, into a thorough going, collegial form of  team-working.

To achieve this Lord Neuberger was prepared to innovate e.g. pursuing balance in panel selection, boosting single judgments, using 600 word essays, encouraging joint judgments, holding multiple conferences, facilitating remote decision making through email and multiple drafts, and taking the Court to the rest of the UK. He was equally happy to abandon or curtail practices that he found inimical to effective appellate judicial decision-making e.g. the use of enlarged panels, allocating the lion’s share of lead judgments to the President and Deputy President,  and (laterally) the use of multiple conferences. His peripatetic engagement with everyone in the Court allowed him to draw on, and encourage the development of the strengths of each member of the team whether they were on the Court or members of staff, since David understood the importance of goodwill, and collegiality for  effective decision-making.”  

For the full lecture see: