Litigation loads and handling cases in-house through trial

The general counsel of Ford Motor, David Leitch spoke recently to a group and his remarks are published in the Nat’l L.J., Vol. 30, Jan. 28, 2008. Leitch mentions that Ford Motor has about 13,000 cases pending against it. Up those cases probably 10,000 are asbestos-related and are not particularly active (See my posts of Oct. 25, 2007: the percentage of dormant cases; April 17, 2007: percentage of dormancy months; and Aug. 22, 2006: a metric of law firm performance.). “Another 2000 2500 at any given point in time are product liability cases.” The point has been made before that a law department’s absolute number of cases pending may be a poor indicator of workload (See my post of Aug. 22, 2006: number of lawsuits pending.).

One unusual aspect of Ford’s litigation program is that its in-house attorneys try a lot of cases. “[W]e tend to try 80 to 100 product liability cases in a year, as well as a handful of employment and other types of cases” says Leitch. He proudly reports that Ford wins about 80 percent of the cases than it takes through trial (See my post of Feb. 23, 2008: Affymetrix does its own offensive litigation; Feb. 9, 2008: don’t “manage” litigation, handle it.). Its volume of cases allows Ford to selectively represent itself on many of them.

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