Evolving Litigation Trends Revealed by Lex Machina’s 2022 Law Firms Report

4 Min Read By: Gloria Huang

On February 24, 2022, Lex Machina released its 2022 Law Firms Activity Report (the “Report”). The Report ranked firms across sixteen federal practice areas over the last three years, revealing which firms filed and defended the most cases in how many districts and involving what amounts of damages.

In the past, in-house attorneys have used this report as a starting point for selecting outside counsel. Law firms have historically used the report to understand how they compare to their peers and competitors in order to maximize their strategies in bids for clients. However, the report also provides valuable data-driven insights into evolving litigation trends across practice areas, districts, and time.

One of the most interesting trends highlighted in the report involves the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on case filings in various practice areas. When the pandemic first began two years ago, Lex Machina began to track cases caused by COVID-19 (the “COVID Cases”), and it continues to do so now. The data and analytics from tracking these cases reveal that the impact of COVID-19 on litigation activity in different practice areas has continued to evolve and change as the pandemic has progressed.

For example, several of the most active law firms involved in COVID Cases filed cases under the American Disabilities Act (the “ADA”) or alleged employment claims. This pattern contrasts with litigation activity in the early stages of the pandemic, when according to Lex Machina’s previous Law Firms Activity Report, contracts and securities case filings were some of the most robust, as plaintiffs reacted to broken contracts and plummeting stock value. These trends likely reflect the fact that the later stages of the pandemic have tended to heavily impact different practice areas, such as employment and civil rights cases involving the ADA. This stands to reason, as over time, remote-work situations and morphing government mandates have given rise to a new host of legal issues. The Report indicated that employment defense firms were especially busy, filing cases involving claims related to vaccine mandates, disability discrimination, whistleblower retaliation, and lack of protective equipment, among other claims.

In addition, the case filing trends revealed that class actions and lawsuits related to singular large-scale events continued to influence the legal landscape and drive up case counts, particularly in the areas of product liability, torts, and insurance. For example, in product liability, the most active law firms representing plaintiffs and defendants were each involved in approximately 800 cases in 2020 that were related to a Bard medical device, which drove up their three-year case counts and placed them at the top of the lists of most active firms.

Some other trends revealed in the Report include the Department of Justice’s continued dominance as the most active counsel overall. In terms of the most active law firms, the Legal Analytics showed that while some law firms with high case counts had dedicated specializations, there were several national litigation firms that appeared in multiple practice areas. For example, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher, & Flom topped two different lists for defense firms in the practice areas of Antitrust and Securities, while Fox Rothschild appeared in multiple lists of top firms in the Bankruptcy, Contracts, Copyright, False Claims, Trade Secret, and Trademark practice areas. Many of the most active employment firms, such as Jackson Lewis, also appeared in the lists of the most active firms with cases caused by COVID, as well as the most active firms overall.

The Report revealed several key litigation trends over the last three years, as well as highlighting the law firms and counsel that were most active in different practice areas during this time. Leveraging the data-driven insights provided by the Report can be powerful for gaining an enhanced understanding of the evolving landscape of federal litigation.

Lex Machina’s Law Firms Activity Report presented data from Lex Machina’s Legal Analytics platform. Using machine learning and technology-assisted attorney review, raw data was extracted from PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records), which contains documents from federal district court. The raw data was then cleaned, tagged, structured, and loaded into Lex Machina’s proprietary platform. The report was prepared by the Lex Machina Product Team using charts and graphs from the platform. The commentary was provided by Lex Machina’s legal experts.

By: Gloria Huang

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