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Funny thing about the death of the class action: Someone forgot to send the memo to the plaintiffs’ bar. Judging from the dozens of nominations we received for this, our sixth, annual list of the country’s most prominent plaintiffs’ firms, the plaintiff’s bar is as aggressive as ever, maybe even more so. Plaintiffs’ attorneys racked up impressive verdicts and settlements in the usual areas like securities fraud and products liability since last year, while exploring fresh ground against self-serving managers and controlling shareholders in corporate deal-making. They even got something like a class action to fly in Europe, as staff reporter Vesna Jaksic discovered. [See " Class action acquires a Dutch accent."] The bottom lines on these cases look bigger, too. The top five firms in the Securities Class Action Services ranking of plaintiffs’ firms by settlement value brought in nearly $12.8 billion in 2006, compared with a shade less than $9.8 billion in 2005. What we’ve got here, said Stanley Bernstein of Bernstein Liebhard & Lifshitz in New York, is “the law of unintended consequences of the Securities Reform Act” and other tort reforms. That process has culled the herd of weaker cases, but freed plaintiffs’ counsel to more vigorously litigate the cases that remain. Witnesses who might have escaped notice in the past are more likely to find themselves in a deposition room now. “When you finally survive all the hurdles that Congress and the courts have put in the way, you’ve got an unbelievable case � and that case is going to be pursed to the very end,” Bernstein said. “The ultimate dollars paid are going to be bigger.” “Good firms are creative and tenacious and will find ways to win,” said Sherrie R. Savett, a partner at Philadelphia’s Berger & Montague. “Even if the cases are difficult and there are obstacles � legal obstacles, difficult judges, evidentiary problems.” As Bernstein noted: “Fraud’s the same.” And a vigilant plaintiffs’ bar is perhaps the best corrective, as staff reporter Lynne Marek reports. [See " The law served to keep companies honest."] Our regular contributor Peter Page found another example involving health insurers accused of gaming the system to deny or delay reimbursements to doctors. [See " Case puts doctors back in the driver's seat."] Matthew Hirsch of NLJ affiliate The Recorder examines what happens when a settlement doesn’t stay settled. [See " Overtime litigation rises from the grave."] The Hot List is our unscientific survey of the litigation scene since the summer of 2006. We asked our readers to nominate exemplary firms that devote at least half of their resources to plaintiffs’ work, and which have achieved at least one significant win during that period. “Significant” means winning an awful lot of money through a bench or jury verdict, or otherwise defining industry practices or the progress of related litigation. We also considered firms’ track record over the preceding five years, and supplemented the fat pile of nominations we received with our own research. We recognize that important cases don’t always end in verdicts, so we highlight a number of significant settlements here. We admit that the process was subjective, and that some wonderful firms didn’t quite make the cut. Of those that did, seven firms were on last year’s list � including Coughlin Stoia Geller Rudman & Robbins, minus former name partner William S. Lerach, one of the year’s casualties.

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