Business leaders in Birmingham are calling for the chance to run a pilot scheme that would see High Court judges become resident in the city.
The move, which could end centuries of judicial tradition, follows the publication of a preliminary report which showed that up to #2.5 million could be saved on civil litigation cases alone if legal actions from the region were tried by a resident High Court judge.
The leaders and chief executives of the seven West Midland metropolitan borough councils have given their unanimous backing to the report, which was commissioned by business lobby group Birmingham Forward, and produced by the Birmingham office of Deloitte in association with Birmingham Law Society, St Philips Chambers and No.5 Chambers.
Representatives met separately with the Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, the senior presiding judge for England and Wales, Lord Justice Thomas, and officials at the Department for Constitutional Affairs, to discuss the preliminary report.
The report highlighted a growing need for commercial HCJ rulings in the region, and found that decentralisation would benefit both companies and the public purse in a number of ways.
Simon Murphy, chief executive of Birmingham Forward, said: "The location of HCJs in London has its origins in the historical dominance of London over English law.
"However, the legal map in England and Wales is changing and Birmingham is now home to the largest legal sector outside of the capital.
"The current set-up means that ambitious legal professionals, who have trained and flourished in regional firms, find themselves having to relocate to London in order to achieve HCJ status and progress their careers.
"This creates an unsustainable 'brain drain' of talent from the regions, which is both unrepresentative of the modern legal landscape and encourages the misconception that London-based law firms are better placed to deal with high-value cases than their regional counterparts."
Figures highlighted in the report suggest there is a strong logistical argument for the decentralisation of HCJs.
Richard Follis, president of the Birmingham Law Society, said: "In 1998, Deputy High Court Judges sat in Birmingham for just 26 days but by 2003 this figure had grown to
"With more and more large civil cases now commencing in Birmingham, it makes sense for HCJs to be located in the
Midlands," he said. "In fact, with figures revealing that London judges sat for the equivalent of 600 days during 2003 on civil High Court matters related to the Midlands circuit, there is a real case for as many as three or four HCJs to be located in the city and region."
According to the report, the prime benefit of such a move would be major savings in costs to both litigants and the courts.
With the expense of travel, overnight accommodation, higher professional fees, and the use of London agents for issuing papers and attending meetings all causing costs of cases to mount, litigants can be faced with additional costs of up to #4,000 a day in court.
If HCJs were resident in Birmingham savings in excess of #400,000 a year could be made to the public purse by reducing overheads and staffing costs.
Mr Murphy said: "The findings make a strong case for resident HCJs in the regions and, as the first city to directly take its case to the Lord Chancellor, Birmingham is leading the way.
He added: "By creating a High Court in Birmingham, led by full status HCJs, we could increase the commercial community's ability to access justice at all levels of jurisdiction, whatever their location. Locating all HCJs within the capital no longer makes financial or logistical sense."