LAWS3589/JURD7489 Complex Civil Litigation

Lecturer: Michael Legg

What is the course about?
Many disputes are complex because of high stakes, complex facts, complex law, multiple parties etc. This course examines what causes litigation to be complex and how to manage that complexity. It is about the strategic use of civil procedure by both courts and lawyers. Courts need to resolve the litigation efficiently and can use various procedural tools to do so. The course includes a visit to the Federal Court of Australia for a guest lecture by a Federal Court judge on case management. Lawyers want to win and in complex cases procedural decisions can impact outcomes. The main areas studied are pleadings, electronic discovery, expert witnesses, alternative dispute resolution, class actions and case management. The course draws on Australian, US and UK law. In summer 2016, it will also include a class on transnational litigation as cross-border disputes are another source of complexity.

Why does the subject interest you?
The course provides an opportunity to look at the choices to be made in complex litigation, particularly class actions, in a systematic way that highlights the tactics of litigation as well as their impact on policy objectives such as fairness and efficiency. As a practitioner I enjoy this course because it teaches students how to be effective advocates and litigators. It gives students the beginnings of the tool kit they need to be practitioners. As an academic, this course allows for consideration of how the civil justice system and specific litigation procedures can be reformed so as to be more effective.

Do you have any advice to give to students who are interested in taking this course?
The course requires a good grasp of the black letter law that applies to the various procedures, but in many ways the course is more concerned with making students think about how a procedure can be employed to achieve a particular outcome or what are the ramification of using a particular procedure. It is the strategic or tactical thinking that characterises the best litigation lawyers.

How will this course be relevant in the future?
Many routine disputes will be resolved outside courts or through online courts. However, there will always be disputes that are high stakes and/or complex for which the court system will be a necessity due to the need for judicial oversight, expert witnesses, discovery etc. This includes corporate/commercial disputes, competition law, construction disputes, regulatory litigation, intellectual property (especially patents) and class actions.