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American businesses are filing and fighting fewer lawsuits, according to Fulbright & Jaworski’s fourth annual Litigation Trends Survey. Seventeen percent of respondents have not defended a lawsuit in the past year, compared with 11% in the prior year. The rate of corporations bringing at least one new lawsuit dropped to 65%, compared with more than 70% in the prior year and 88% in 2004. Only 22% of in-house counsel expect their companies to be involved in more legal disputes during the next year. A stable economy and strong stock market during the first half of the year reduced public company litigation, and the lessening of the corporate accounting scandals led to a drop in securities class actions and other investor suits. “The data this year point to a pronounced drop in new case filings � both against, and by, American companies, a reversal of the upward trajectory in the number of new lawsuits from our previous three surveys,” said Stephen C. Dillard, chairman of the global litigation practice at Fulbright & Jaworski from the firm’s Houston office. Regulatory pressures Regulatory pressures have also eased for U.S. companies with 36% of U.S. counsel reporting a regulatory proceeding or investigation at their company in the past three years, compared with 49% last year. Only a quarter expected regulatory proceedings to increase in the near term. When companies are involved in litigation, they’re increasingly likely to look to national or regional electronic-discovery counsel for help, with 39% of U.S. companies hiring or considering retaining such counsel in 2007 compared with 18% in 2006. Among U.S. respondents, 27% said the December 2006 federal electronic-discovery rule changes added complexity to e-discovery issues in federal cases, while 18% said the rule changes clarified the process. Fulbright & Jaworski tapped market analysis and research firm Greenwood Associates for the survey, which drew 253 responses from U.S. in-house counsel and about 50 from U.K. legal departments. The majority of respondents were from large companies, with 42% employed at companies with more than $1 billion in revenue and 36% working for companies with sales between $100 million and $999 million. Sixty-five percent of participants worked for publicly held companies.

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