I spend quite a bit of my time tracking complex litigation. I would say that I do it so I can keep material fresh for my blog, but that would not be whole truth. I keep current with happenings in the litigation market for survival. Since I contract often to make my way in this world, knowing when that market is busy or slow is an absolute must.
Well, what a difference a couple of years make. Back in 2008, it seemed like the sky was falling. Above The Law, partnering with Law Shucks, reported almost everyday on associate layoffs. At the time, I was hunting down document reviews as a legal recruiter for a small staffing outfit. Several of my contract attorney friends called me, and most of those calls were very depressing. People were begging for work, having been unemployed for months in a D.C. market that normally kept attorneys steadily working. Many were emotionally upset, having watched their savings dwindle down to their last few dollars. When would the market pick back up? When would the economy turn around?
Now, fast forward to the present. Events in this country are sending litigation toward a perfect storm. I’m talking sea-change. Something we have never seen in this market before. So much so, this next decade may be one of the best for legal technology and Biglaw. I will give you six reasons after the jump.
1. United and Continental Tie the Knot
After years of being on again, off again, Continental finally accepted the 3-billion-dollar diamond ring from United, and its proposal to marry. Their union will make them the largest airline in the world. This second request will be massive. Normally, this would be the biggest news for people like me following litigation technology trends, much like the Delta/Northwest merger a while back. Shockingly, this is actually minor compared to everything else going on.
2. I Love What You Do For Me!
The only thing Toyota will put the brakes on in the next few years is the amount of litigation that they are facing.
In a report filed Friday with U.S. District Judge James Selna, attorneys for the plaintiffs and Toyota listed 228 federal cases and 99 related cases in state courts. A judicial panel consolidated the federal cases before Selna last month.
Amanda Bronstad of The National Law Journal also writes a good article on how the Toyota legal woes could be groundbreaking for federal multi-district litigation or (MDL).
3. The BP/Transocean Oil Spill
On Tuesday, this class action was announced. And here is how others are sizing up this situation:
“This is a multi-billion dollar event,” said Keith Hall, an attorney with the firm Stone Pigman in New Orleans. “There are going to be huge environmental clean-up costs.”
Seriously, this has the potential to be the litigation story of the decade, even surpassing the big bank litigation currently underway.
4. Goldman, et al
I wrote a few weeks ago about how this was going to be 100 times larger than the Enron litigation that went on for years at the turn of the century. As I expected, the DOJ is now taking a look at Goldman as well for criminal wrongdoing. The Goldman investigation alone is a huge story, but keep in mind, Goldman is simply 1 of 19 banks the SEC has in its sights.
5. FCPA Actions
One of the priorities of the DOJ recently has been cracking down on corporations that violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). According to some experts, the DOJ may have as many as 120-130 open investigations. I have worked a few FCPA actions myself, and I can tell you that these investigations tend to go on for months, if not years.
6. Everything Else
The cases above do not reflect all the other lawsuits, investigations, and mergers Biglaw and legal technologists will face. Normally, when I track e-discovery litigation, I can normally sum it up in phases, i.e., “where were you during the tobacco/asbestos litigation, Enron litigation, Fannie Mae, etc. Today, litigation matters are striking like lightning bolts all over the place. The amount of data we will be processing in the near future is unfathomable, and the amount of attorneys, lit support, and paralegals that will be needed to get through all that information should be something like we have never seen.
Gabe Acevedo is an attorney in Washington, D.C. and the owner of the e-discovery blog, GabesGuide.com. He also writes on legal technology and discovery issues for Above The Law. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org