Each year for the past 11, Norton Rose Fulbright has gauged the temperature of global litigation with a far-reaching survey of corporate counsel from all over the world. This year, 800 lawyers from 26 countries participated -- about two-thirds from billion-dollar organizations.
Collectively, they reported a steep decline in data volumes, an easing of regulatory pressure and less societal appetite for frivolous class actions. "I sleep like a baby," one general counsel said.
Just kidding. Here are six key takeaways from the 66-page report, which you can download here.
1. PAIRING LOW BARRIERS TO FILING WITH HIGH LITIGATION COSTS IS A RECIPE FOR QUICK SETTLEMENTS
Global titans of industry may make for unsympathetic characters, but it's hard to ignore the rising fear of "extortionate" -- as one GC put it -- class actions and the increasing ease with which prospective litigants can organize and sue. Crowd-sourced lawsuits, anyone? Stir this trend with soaring litigation costs, particularly discovery-related costs, which were again identified as a top concern, and you have a cocktail for swift settlements of -- again, corporate lawyers say -- meritless claims.
This pretty much sums it up:
“I think (my biggest concern) is probably the class action litigation particularly in the US. A lot of the times it is without foundation, (but) you end up tackling it just to avoid the ongoing cost of being involved in the process. It is a pretty unsatisfactory global system for class action in that regard.” ~ Australian Technology and innovation company GC
2. GENERAL COUNSELS WANT PREDICTABLE COSTS
More than half of respondents said they used alternative fee arrangements, and of those, 66% said they preferred fixed fees. 78% said fixed fee arrangements had been effective or very effective in helping their company achieve financial goals, and -- here's the kicker -- 97% of respondents who had used AFAs were satisfied with the work performed under them. The bigger the company, the more likely to use AFAs.
Discovery costs are a wildcard, and smart corporate legal teams will do whatever it takes to lock them in as precisely as possible. It doesn't look good to the rest of the C-suite to come in way over budget -- or way under budget for that matter. Fixed fees promote efficiency because they disincentive feet-dragging on work that would otherwise be billed by the hour, and help eliminate "make work" advising.