The cost of litigation is the largest single component in a law department'sbudget. General counsel are fighting a losing battle to control this cost notwithstanding focused efforts to handle individual cases more effectively.Yet, despite careful case management and the use of quality outside counsel, new cases continue to pour in - and litigation expense as a percentage of sales continues to grow.
Corporate counsel are confronted by a classic forest and trees dilemma. They are addressing the individual trees - cases - effectively, but some may not be spending enough time thinking about how they can best cope with the forest - that is, by focusing on ways to improve the civil justice system.Since this is the only way to stem the litigation tide, the time, effort and money involved is well spent.The current political environment for effecting change could not be better. Civil justice reform is a top priority of the federal administration and many state governments - and there are an increasing number of judges, both at the federal and state levels, whose backgrounds qualify them to understand the concerns of corporate counsel.In addition, a variety of organizations exist that are successfully addressing the big picture - the forest.And, with more support from corporate counsel, they can make even greater progress.
Most companies have five- and ten-year plans addressing business issues. Yet, these plans can be disrupted by one "bet-the-company" case brought in a remote county of a small state. Most general counsel recognize the need to develop a plan for handlingbet-the-company cases and then to carefully review the plan with the CEO and the board. But how many have also developed a long-range civil justice reform plan for reducing the likelihood of such cases for review with the CEO and the Board?
This month and next, in Parts I and II of our Special Reports on Civil Justice Reform, we will be featuring a number of organizations that can help you implement your long-range civil justice reform plan. Your outside defense counsel and their organizations are willing and able to play significant roles in such a plan. General counsel, who have encouraged their outside counsel to partner with them to support their diversity, pro bono and other goals, have in many cases also encouraged them to support their civil justice reform goals. But, some general counsel may still be unaware of the ways their outside counsel can help them realize those goals.The interviews of Philip Sellinger (page 41 ) and Bill Graham (page 43) illustrate some of the ways outside counsel can help.In his article on page 42, Victor Schwartz outlines strategies whereby, through the litigation process, changes in outmoded and unfair legal principles can be obtained.You will want to be sure that your defense counsel are alert to your desire to take advantage of these opportunities.
Lawyers for Civil Justice (LCJ) provides opportunities for defense counsel to help their clients and corporate America achieve their civil justice reform goals. It is a coalition of Fortune500 corporations and the leadership of the organized national defense bar: DRI, Federation of Defense and Corporate Counsel (FDCC), and the International Association of Defense Counsel (IADC). Its efforts have also been aided by 52 Associate Members, a group of law firms that partner with corporate counsel by contributing to the support of LCJ, both financially and, when the opportunity arises, by applying their legal talents in support of LCJ's goals. LCJ works closely with the Civil Justice Reform Group and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
In our December issue, Part II of our Special Report on Civil Justice Reform will focus more specifically on LCJ's Membership Meeting in New York City on December 12-13, which will cover a wide range of civil justice reform topics.Confirmed speakers already include: John Hofmeister, President and CEO, Shell Oil Company; Charles W. Matthews, Jr., Vice President and General Counsel, Exxon Mobil Corporation; William "Bill" Ide, Former ABA President and Chair, ABA Task Force on the Attorney Client Privilege;Chief Justice Myron T. Steele, Delaware Supreme Court; Honorable Lee Rosenthal, Chair, Judicial Conference Advisory Committee on Civil Rules; and Justice Nathan Hecht, Texas Supreme Court. Bill Ide's interview appears on page 39 of this issue and interviews of Mr. Matthews and Chief Justice Steele appear in our August issue on pages 31 and 32.We will be interviewing a number of the other speakers in our December issue.
We are also planning to encourage defense counsel to use our December issue to continue to share with our readers ways in which they and their firms help corporate America to achieve their civil justice reform objectives.
We urge our corporate counsel readers to consider attending the LCJ Membership Meeting. For information about attending the Meeting, please contact LCJ's Executive Director Barry Bauman at 202-429-0045. For general information about LCJ, visit its Web site at www.lfcj.com or contact Barry at firstname.lastname@example.org.