Separate reports into the Australian, British and American legal systems indicate that the numbers of class actions are either holding steady or falling.
The American-based law firm Fulbright & Jaworski released a survey yesterday (13 October) that canvassed over 400 in-house lawyers in the USA and UK. It reported that one quarter of respondents faced a class action over the past year, consistent with survey results from the last three years.
The Fulbright study comes hot on the heels of a report by a Melbourne academic in September into the number of class actions in Australia.
Monash University Professor Vince Morabito analysed all 253 class actions filed in the Federal Court of Australia between 4 March 1992 and 30 June 2009.
Morabito's study divided this 17-year period into quarters, and he found the period between 4 June 1996 to 3 September 2000 provided the most amount of filings by quarter (93). The fourth of September 2000 to 3 December 2004 was the second most prolific period (65 filings), with the most recent period, 4 December 2004 to 3 March 2009, realising only 54 filings.
By calendar year, the most number of filings occurred in 1998 (32), followed by 26 in 2007 and 25 in 1999. There were 18 Federal Court class actions filed in 2008, the last year of the study.
Unlike the Morabito report, the Fulbright study also canvassed other issues.
Over 90 per cent of lawyers surveyed believe that legal disputes would increase or remain the same in the next 12 months, with the lagging economies of both countries cited as the most common reason.
For the first time in the Fulbright survey, first launched in 2004, a majority of lawyers (51 per cent) used an alternative fee arrangement. One-fifth of respondents reported being the subject of whistleblower allegations, and 25 per cent of respondents said their company uses some kind of corporate blog.
Fulbright & Jaworski have 16 offices in six countries.