During the latter half of 2011, I was privy to the following exchange between a well-known law professor and a well-known practitioner:

PROFESSOR: Yes, I wrote a piece which concluded that the class action is dead. You heard it here.
PRACTITIONER: And yet plaintiffs keep filing the things …

That exchange (which I promise actually happened), summarizes the primary trend in class-action scholarship in the last year: declaring the device "dead," either because classes are now too hard to certify because of Dukes, too hard to bring in the first place because of Concepcion, or too expensive because Continue Reading

 I’ve made no secret about the fact that one of the purposes of this blog is to delve into how the other side thinks.  And I’ve also emphasized the fact that it’s important to keep an open mind when considering one’s adversaries in litigation.  So I was pleased to hear that plaintiffs’-lawyer-turned-academic Morris Ratner was working on a piece that would discuss how plaintiffs’ firms operate today.

Unfortunately, Ratner’s working paper–A New Model of Plaintiffs’ Class Action Attorneys–promises a heck of a lot more than he delivers. There is no "new model." Instead, he offers a critique … Continue Reading

Cardozo law professor Lester Brickman has been a longtime critic of the contingency fee system. So it’s no surprise that his latest work, Lawyer Barons: What Their Contingency Fees Really Cost America (introduction here), has a lot to say about how contingency fees skew the incentives of plaintiffs’ lawyers. Among the most interesting observations he makes:

Many contingency fees don’t reflect actual risk. Brickman documents how often, lawyers don’t bear the risk of not getting paid, in part because of "careful case selection." This is not shocking; most plaintiffs’ lawyers admit readily to being selective about the cases they … Continue Reading

Richard Nagareda’s object in Mass Torts in a World of Settlement, his only book-length theoretical work, was to show how settlements operate in a world in which aggregated litigation is common, and trial almost unheard of.

One of Nagareda’s primary observations is that settlements of mass torts are best handled by some administrative apparatus. In the meantime, the legal system is evolving to become more administrative in response to these mass torts.

Nagareda starts from the premise that mass torts deal with "generalized" wrongs. (He argues that this phenomenon arises largely from industrialization, which allows for both wide … Continue Reading

 "Hey man, I don’t practice law. I talk on the phone." — Richard Scruggs, on federal wiretap

This week, Class Action Countermeasures introduces another regular feature: book reviews. Once a month, I’ll be reviewing a book that has some relation to class action litigation. The primary purpose of the review will be to determine what class-action lawyers can learn that will assist them in formulating class-action defense strategies. (I’ve done this once or twice before.) First up is The Fall of the House of Zeus: The Rise and Ruin of America’s Most Powerful Trial Lawyer, by Curtis Wilkie.

The Continue Reading

As I’ve discussed before, there are few areas of law as polarized as class actions. The plaintiff and defense bars in class-action law rarely agree on anything, from the proper scope of Rule 23 to what a class action is in the first place. And I’m not the only one to have noticed this divide. Connecticut law professor Alexandra Lahav recently published an essay in the Fordham Law Review on "Two Views of the Class Action."

Lahav’s essay could improve from more focus.  She winds up talking about two different pairs of competing views–one of class actions, and … Continue Reading

 Brian Fitzpatrick’s argument that courts should approve more fees for class action plaintiffs’ lawyers has generated its share of discussion. And a few months ago, the Seventh Circuit weighed in (sort of), during an argument about fees for objectors in In re Trans Union Corp. Privacy Litigation.

Judge Posner (who has decided a number of class action appeals this year) wrote the opinion, and observed:

It is a curiosity of class action litigation that often there is greater ferocity in combat among the class lawyers over the allocation of attorneys’ fees than there is between the class lawyers

Continue Reading

 As I’ve written before, guessing at the motives and methods of plaintiffs’ lawyers in class actions can be much like old-style Kremlinology. But every once in a while, we get a little more information. The most recent comes from University of Minnesota Law School professor Stephen Meili, who just published his article Collective Justice and Personal Gain? An Empirical Analysis of Consumer Class Action Lawyers and Named Plaintiffs in the Akron Law Review.

Professor Meili’s methodology is not ideal: he basically just sent a series of open-ended questions to class-action plaintiffs and their attorneys, asking them about … Continue Reading

Florida State law professor Elizabeth Chamblee Burch is the latest to weigh in on the problem of how to make sure class actions are adequately governed.  In an forthcoming article from the Vanderbilt Law Review, she asks what makes an optimal lead plaintiff in a securities class action.

Burch focuses on the the difficulties raised by what she refers to as plaintiffs’ law firms "courting process," particularly the use of "pay to play" practices and investment monitoring agreements.  Her discussion of these issues is worth quoting at length:

After the PSLRA, plaintiffs’ law firms sought to

Continue Reading

 Paul Karlsgodt of Classactionblawg.com got there first (in a post that should win "Title of the Month" hands-down), but Judge Posner’s opinion yesterday denying rehearing (and announcing there will be no en banc rehearing) in Thorogood v. Sears Roebuck & Co. is still worth an extra post.  Not just because Judge Posner discusses the results of an informal poll of the panel’s wives, not just because he cites a YouTube link of Simon Cowell, and not just because the ever-irreverent Above the Law is likely to feature the opinion as a classic benchslap.    

The primary … Continue Reading