Making Inroads In The Diversity Of MDL Leadership

Published date20 June 2022
Subject MatterCorporate/Commercial Law, Litigation, Mediation & Arbitration, Corporate and Company Law, Arbitration & Dispute Resolution, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
Law FirmBurford Capital
AuthorMs Cindy Tully

Multidistrict litigations (MDLs) are among the most high-profile US legal matters in which a lawyer can be involved, but they are also among the least likely to be led by diverse lawyers. According to data gathered by, on average, only 5% of lawyers appointed to plaintiffs' steering committees (PSCs) in MDLs created from 2016 through 2019 identified as "nonwhite".

New solutions are needed to improve the representation of female and racially diverse litigators on PSCs and broaden the pool of lawyers who have experience in managing large MDLs'experience which often parlays into career progression and economic growth for lawyers.

Leadership on MDL cases is a career-making opportunity

Diversity within MDL leadership positions is important because MDLs shape litigation across the entire country. An MDL ties together potentially thousands of separate cases filed in courts throughout the US for coordinated pretrial proceedings, before they are remanded to individual trials on the merits. These cases are by nature noteworthy and resolve some of the most pressing, complex and high-profile torts of our day. Yet the lawyers who typically lead these proceedings still look a lot like they did 50 years ago, and the usual suspects for this important area of the law remain predominately white and male.

Judges are leading diversity efforts within MDLs

Diversity is a growing concern among both the bench and the bar in MDLs. Federal judges in the US are now stressing the importance of diversity in their orders or in courtroom discussions with lawyers.

For example, in a December 2020 pre-trial order in the Elmiron case, Judge Martinotti informed the parties of his expectation that leadership would be "diverse in gender, ethnicity, geography and experience." This directive then led to a PSC that was three quarters female.

Case management orders can help new attorneys get vital experience in their careers, and thus potentially also helping female and diverse attorneys to gain experience. To bridge the experience gap in important arguments, for example, US District Judge Chen in the Northern District of California permits more than one person to argue the motion. In his standing order, he sets forth that the court "is amenable to permitting a number of lawyers to argue for one party if this creates an opportunity for such attorneys to participate."

This is reflective of a broader trend of courts advocating for greater diversity. Ultimately...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT