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  • Kirk Hartley

Lawyers, Mass Torts, and Globalization versus Parochial Local Ethical Rules; Reforms May Occur, and

Once upon a time, practicing law was local. Today, for some clients and lawyers, the issues are global. Indeed, they went global many years ago, and we were headed towards multi-state and multi-disciplinary practice in the US, until Enron.

Today, the ABA and others are focusing again on multi-state issues. One hopes real progress is quickly made in eliminating some of the useless and anti-competetive restrictions. A Lawcom article picks up a New York Law Journal article by Nate Raymond on this subject. That article includes this link to an ABA Commmission looking at the issues, and to a New York report on the subject.

From my perspective, changes are badly needed so that specialist trial lawyers can attack or defend entities in lawsuits that necessarily sprawl across state and national lines because the acting enties are multinational. Consider, for example, the Dole pesticide exposure claims that are now producing yet another chapter in the long-running saga of Dole’s overseas use of a pesticide banned in some states. See this August 4 article by Alison Frankel. Or, consider multi-national insurers that for decades sold occurrence-based liability policies to US shareholders, but now are using UK courts to seek to dissolve and terminate their obligations to the policyholders.

In short, corporate entities can and do operate globally, and can bring massive resources to bear, Some irresponsible corporate managers will continue to mistreat individuals until lawyers are able to operate equally globally and are able to act with significant global resources. That’s part of why some (but not all) global companies despise litigation funding – it starts to level the playing field. Ethical reforms are needed to further level the playing field.

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About Kirk

Since becoming a lawyer in 1983, Kirk’s over 30 years of practice have focused on advising a wide range of corporations, associations, and individuals (as both plaintiffs and defendants) on both tort and commercial law issues centered around “mass torts.”

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