Unmasking the Powerful Force that Has Mis-Shaped the American Civil Justice System
Global Competition Litigation Review, Vol. 4, No. 3, 2010
7 Pages Posted: 11 Jan 2011 Last revised: 13 Jan 2011
Date Written: 2010
The contingency fee, once largely a uniquely American institution, is beginning to gain serious consideration in Europe and elsewhere. It is essential that those considering adopting some form of the contingency fee to finance civil litigation have a proper understanding of the impact of the contingency fee on the U.S. civil justice system. That understanding, however, appears woefully lacking. In Lawyer Barons: What Their Contingency Fees Really Cost America (Cambridge University Press 2011), I discuss the underappreciated and indeed, often unrealized costs of reliance on contingency fees to finance access to the tort system. In this essay, I reprise some of the impacts policymakers should take into account in determining whether the anticipated benefits of the American contingency fee system outweigh the considerable costs.
Keywords: contingency fees, legal ethics, professional responsibility, mass torts, class actions, rent-seeking legal fees
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