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Litigation has become part of the business landscape for most companies. Companies that once faced little or no litigation now find themselves defending against “bet the company” litigation. Often the in-house attorneys are stretched too thin to guide the day-to-day management and coordination of the voluminous litigation or, in some instances, are corporate lawyers not fully familiar with the ins and outs of litigation. Faced with the challenge of managing their growing and increasingly complex litigation, many companies benefit from employing outside counsel with experience managing and coordinating vast litigation. These counsel, usually referred to as “national coordinating counsel,” provide a link between the company, its litigation and the local counsel who handle the day-to-day litigation issues that arise in individual cases. Utilizing a national coordinating counsel is effective in a number of situations, the most obvious of which is mass tort litigation, i.e., when the company faces a number of similar personal injury or property damage claims arising from the same product or substance, pending in multiple jurisdictions and possibly in a federal or state multidistrict litigation (MDL). The classic example of a mass tort is the asbestos litigation. Similarly, national coordinating counsel can be useful in serial tort litigation, such as when the company has a number of lawsuits involving similar products alleged to have caused injury or property damage. Serial tort litigation involves a number of cases arising from similar products or exposure, but each case has distinct facts as to how the injury or property damage occurred, such as when safety devices are removed, and result in a variety of different types of industrial accidents, or automotive defect cases. The company will have many similar cases, but unlike mass tort cases, the alleged defect and manner of injury usually differ from case to case. The decision to retain a national coordinating counsel should not be limited to mass tort or serial tort litigation. A company with a number of cases involving common corporate issues or witnesses may benefit from having a national coordinating counsel oversee the consistency with which the corporate issues are presented and corporate witnesses testify across diverse litigation. National coordinating counsel can develop an understanding of the company’s business, develop the company’s affirmative defense “story” and interview and prepare corporate witnesses so that the witnesses’ testimony is consistent with the company’s defense strategy. While the lawyer cannot change the facts, he or she should help witnesses learn to withstand the pressure of cross-examination, deal with difficult facts and be as credible as possible. National coordinating counsel may also be employed to oversee document productions by learning how the company retains its potentially discoverable documents and develop a streamlined approach for searching, reviewing and producing those documents. This results in efficiency and expediency in responding to document production, and should result in substantial cost savings to the company because several different firms are not involved in seeking the same documents. Many businesses can benefit Businesses with multiple facilities facing litigation, such as medical service providers that offer services at multiple sites throughout a region or nationally, will benefit from having national coordinating counsel oversee their litigation and corporate defense issues, and help minimize the risk that parent corporations will be pulled into local litigation.

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