IT professionals and lawyers are urging companies embroiled in legal action over the year 2000 problem to test-pilot a legal protocol that could help them to avoid long and expensive court cases.
The protocol, which has the backing of the British Computer Society and the Computer Services & Software Association, is designed to encourage both sides to settle their differences through arbitration rather than the courts.
Although the year 2000 problems caused little visible disruption in the UK, lawyers believe companies that received bad advice from suppliers or consultants will turn to the courts to recoup their spending.
"We are looking for test claims - disputes where both sides are willing to try the protocol," said Graham Ross, solicitor with Ross and Co and vice-chairman of the Y2K lawyers association.
The protocol, which is awaiting approval from the Lord Chancellor, encourages companies to share documents, appoint joint technical experts and agree the common ground before a case reaches court.
Cases only reach court when both sides are unable to come to a common understanding of the facts of the dispute, said Ross. This is a particular problem with IT-related disputes, because of their technical complexity.
Ross is currently advising two companies in a legal dispute with suppliers that delivered non-Y2K compatible equipment.