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Survey of corporate counsel predicts increased litigation in 2020

The 2019 Litigation Trends Annual Survey from the law firm Norton Rose Fulbright came out recently. This is a survey of corporate counsel on topics such as litigation risks and the most effective ways to reduce them. 

The big takeaway from the survey is that corporate counsel generally expect the number of disputes to rise in 2020. Thirty-five percent of those surveyed predicted a rise in disputes, up from 27% last year and 25% in 2017. At the same time, 64% tied an increase in litigation volume to economic downturns.

The survey gathered responses from 287 corporate counsel, some who are clients of Norton Rose Fulbright. The median revenue for the corporations they represented was around $1 billion.

What three areas of dispute grew last year? Where can we expect future disputes?

The respondents were asked to identify the three most common areas of dispute from the last year. The three areas chosen included:

  • Labor and employment (49%)
  • Contracts (42%)
  • Personal injury (18%)

They were also asked to identify where to expect the most disputes in the next three years. Surprisingly, 44% of the respondents chose cybersecurity and data privacy. Additionally, 94% labeled cybersecurity risk assessments “highly important,” while only 6% labeled them only “somewhat important.”

What methods of litigation risk control work? What are people using?

Another area of interest in the survey was a discussion of what measures to mitigate litigation risk are effective. Choosing from nine options, the respondents said the most effective methods were:

  • Embedding lawyers within business operations (33%)
  • Early case resolution and evaluation (24%)

However, the most popular strategies for mitigating litigation risk were not those thought most effective. Those common strategies included:

  • Training and seminars for internal people
  • Proactive review of contracts
  • Strict internal controls
  • Policies and reporting

It may be time for lawyers and clients alike to explore their dispute mitigation strategies for effectiveness.

According to a Norton Rose Fulbright partner, this survey represents an unusual spike in the number of corporate counsel who expect an increase in disputes.

Do you agree that an economic downturn could bring about more business disputes? How effective are your risk mitigation strategies?