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Law departments have looked into both their ledgers and their crystal balls, and have seen a little less litigation but a lot more regulation. These are the top-line results of the 2011 Fulbright & Jaworski Litigation Trends Survey, released this week; it is the latest installment of an annual survey of corporate counsel in the U.S. and U.K. conducted by Fulbright & Jaworski LLP. The survey—polling 405 lawyers who predominantly identified themselves as general counsel or heads of litigation—found a slight decrease from last year’s survey in the amount of litigation filed by or against their companies. However, 92% of U.S. respondents and 85% of U.K. companies say they expect litigation to either rise or stay the same in the next 12 months. But when broken down by industry, a slightly different litigation picture emerges: the survey found an increase in law suits against respondents in the technology, retail, and insurance industries, and a level number for financial services companies; the biggest litigation decreases were seen in energy and manufacturing outfits. Whichever way the litigation numbers are trending, Fulbright & Jaworski says that law departments have a different concern at the top of their worry lists: of those who do expect to deal with more litigation in the coming year, increased regulation was the No. 1 reason for that prediction. (Last year’s chart-topper, the state of the economy, saw a nearly 20 percent drop as a concern.) “Our survey respondents have a front-row seat to the increased scrutiny brought on by stricter regulatory enforcement,” said Fulbright’s Stephen C. Dillard, in a statement. “This year, our survey confirmed a heightened level of governmental investigations focused on the energy and insurance industries, with the health care, manufacturing, and engineering sectors not too far behind.” The survey found 40 percent reporting one or more regulatory proceeding on their law department’s docket, part of a steadily rising trend over the last few years. And 55 percent of U.S. companies and 27 percent of U.K. companies reported hiring outside counsel to deal with regulatory investigations. And it’s not just external regulators who are eating up law departments’ time and energy. Internal investigations are up from 43 percent in the 2010 survey to 46 percent this year. Ninety-one percent of respondents also expect internal investigations to rise or stay the same into 2012. These trends dovetail into one of the survey’s key metrics: U.S. law departments saw an increase in their median litigation spend over the previous year, up from $1 million to $1.4 million. For more on these topics and additional results from the 2011 Litigation Trends Survey, visit fulbright.com/litigationtrends01.

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