How realistic is it to shorten litigation lifecycles as a cost-control technique?

Ron Denton, the Business Services Manager for the Legal Department of ConocoPhillips, is the subject of an interview in Met. Corp. Counsel, Sept. 2007 at 56. The interview struck me as an advertorial for a particular e-billing vendor, but it does contain the following quote by Denton: “Our focus has been on reducing litigation lifecycles because that is really the best way to manage cost.”

The best way? Are efforts to close cases even particularly meaningful? A corporation that is a defendant mostly can certainly disgorge large settlements promptly and claim victory on “cycle time,” but that is silly. Sometimes the defense does not want to awaken a somnolent plaintiff. Most crucially, it costs money to push aggressively. I agree, if a case just hangs around, with the tap of billing turned on even at low flow, it is wise to finish the matter off. But to single out how long cases last as a crucial cost driver?

Or perhaps I am focused on the wrong end. If a company can shunt many claims into ADR, and put off the day of litigation even starting, perhaps that is what is meant by shorting litigation length.

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