Back over the summer, I was approached to blurb Paul Karlsgodt’s now-published World Class Actions: A Practitioner’s Guide to Group and Representative Actions around the Globe, which I did happily. Here’s the text of the blurb:
World Class Actions is a comprehensive and practical look at everything a class-action litigator needs to know about mass litigation in other countries. In an increasingly globalized world, this is a book no international lawyer should be without.
That was the two sentences that would fit on the back of a book cover, and I meant every word. This, however, is a (long-overdue) blog post on an important work for class-action practitioners, so let me expand on that a bit.
The book is broken into 2 parts, with 31 chapters. The first, 25-chapter part covers aggregated litigation in every jurisdiction in which it has arisen, from the United States to Singapore. Need a quick primer on classwide evidence in South Africa? No problem. Want to know the procedures for representative actions against the government in Malaysia? This book has you covered. Idly interested in how Australian damages caps play into the certification debate? I’m worried for you personally, but yeah, it’s in there.
The second part (5 chapters) covers issues that arise in transnational class actions, from international arbitration to various jurisdictional and evidentiary doctrines that might come into play.
Karlsgodt did not write the book alone; he wrote the US chapter and edited the overall manuscript, drawing on contributions from a number of international lawyers. And that raises the degree of difficulty of the book significantly. Keeping up to date is hard enough when one is covering a single country and wrangling a single co-author. Riding herd on more than 20 contributors and presenting something clear and useful is a singular editing achievement, and while I envy the result, I do not envy the effort that must have gone into it.
Moreover, the systematic approach the book takes makes it valuable to several audiences. First, World Class Actions would be worth the cover price (less than one associate billable hour) to a single firm facing a single out-of-jurisdiction case; the research hours it would save under those circumstances alone would dictate ordering it. Second, for non-American class-action practitioners (and I know from my blog stats you guys are out there), this should be an invaluable resource when addressing comparatively new questions. While the US is often skeptical of following the leads of foreign jurisdictions when novel questions of law arise, the same is not true for other countries. Finally, it is essential reading for students of aggregated or international litigation. Is notice and opt-out really the best way to handle aggregation? Here is an opportunity to watch how litigation plays out without protections in place. Are American-style class actions the most prone to abuse? See how other jurisdictions worry about similar issues.
There have been numerous, more expensive, and ultimately lower-profile attempts to collect data on how different jurisdictions handle class action practice. But Karlsgodt and his contributors have presented a definitive work that others will have a hard time beating.
[Disclosures: As a result of blurbing the book, I received a free copy. Also Paul has graciously reviewed The Class Action Playbook twice--very kindly each time--and he and I share an editor at OUP. Despite these crossovers, this review was not solicited.]