Restraining Lawyers: From 'Cases' to 'Tasks'

23 Pages Posted: 6 Jan 2017 Last revised: 31 Mar 2017

Date Written: January 1, 2017


Developments in the domains of procedure and private contract highlight a continuing shift in authority away from lawyers and towards courts and clients accomplished by a conceptual downshift from “cases” to “tasks.” The 2015 amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure limit attorney and party discretion by further empowering the trial court judge to dissect, assess the value of, and sequence case activity, including discovery. At the same time, in the private sphere, sophisticated clients aided by advances in project and information management are controlling legal spend by unbundling cases into tasks. From that position, they can source projects to low-cost providers. Clients are also increasingly demanding litigation budgets and seeking value-based pricing, both of which work best if there is heightened communication between lawyer and client regarding the means to be pursued to achieve litigation aims. These regulatory and market restraints on lawyers and lawyer-driven adversarialism, while pointing in a similar direction, differ fundamentally in terms of their reach, efficacy, and fairness. Despite their differences, these developments in tandem have the potential to inspire the creation of new norms and duties calling on litigators to think more deeply and inclusively about the value of litigation tasks from the perspective of court and client.

Keywords: Professional Responsibility, Ethics, Law Practice Management, Civil Procedure

Suggested Citation

Ratner, Morris A., Restraining Lawyers: From 'Cases' to 'Tasks' (January 1, 2017). Fordham Law Review, Vol. 85, 2017, UC Hastings Research Paper No. 230, Available at SSRN:

Morris A. Ratner (Contact Author)

UC Law, San Francisco ( email )

200 McAllister Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
United States

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