As you know, I enjoy getting suggestions for blog topics from you – the readers of the “Ten Things” blog. A few weeks ago I received a note from the general counsel of a small legal department at a relatively new company that was involved in its first material piece of litigation. Yuck. She was a bit lost on how to manage it all and asked if I had any pointers. I did. As someone whose career started as a litigator and who came to the general counsel role through the litigation side (rare), I managed a lot of litigation and I understand how risky, painful and frustrating litigation can be for in-house lawyers. Additionally, if you are not someone who spends a lot of time with litigation, it can be a bear to manage and keep from becoming a runaway time-suck and money pit. I have written about what to do when you first receive a lawsuit, how to explain litigation to the business, and in-house counsel’s role during trial, but I have overlooked a truly important task, i.e., how to manage litigation. This edition of “Ten Things” looks to remedy that oversight. While this post is aimed at those who rarely deal with litigation, I think several of the points will resonate with crusty veterans as well:
It’s hard to recall a more disconcerting feeling than getting a copy of a lawsuit filed against your company. If you have no experience with litigation, this can be a panic-inducing moment. And no matter how experienced you are handling litigation, your stomach will start to flutter as you read through the allegations.
I was a litigator in private practice and I definitely saw my share of litigation, big and small as in-house counsel. Over the course of that time, I developed a standard list of “things to do” when a lawsuit came across my desk. I did this because it’s easy to forget some basic things you need to do up-front to put yourself in the best position to defend the claim. Below are ten things to do when your company gets sued (I have added links to additional resources in key spots).