Number of lawsuits may be flat, but is complexity growing?

Law department benchmark metrics show that law departments face at the median, say, 20-40 lawsuits per lawyer. Metrics disclose cycle time for lawsuits, whether they are as plaintiff or defendant, cases per outside counsel, and what the department spends on them.

No metrics capture complexity of cases (although spending per unit of time is a crude proxy for complexity). Since reports of court filings show that the absolute number of lawsuits filed has been increasing roughly with the growth in population (1-2% a year) – aside from bulges in certain products liability categories such as asbestos – we are left with a question: are lawsuits of law departments becoming more complex? If so, how might we quantify the change in complexity?

Perhaps we could add the number of counts in complaints; we could argue that more tens of thousands of pages of documents turned over in discovery evidences complexity; perhaps depositions per case point in that direction, or the incidence of substantive pleadings. None of these metrics are available to the public, so we can neither prove nor disprove the subjective sense that litigation is growing in sophistication.

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