Slide Background

The Institute for Complex Litigation and Mass Claims
The institute hosts judicial seminars, bar conferences, academic programs, and research advancing our understanding of new developments and trends in the resolution of mass claims within and without the litigation system.

The practice of complex litigation is rapidly evolving, not only to address changes in the underlying law but also the varied and changing substantive claims being brought within the system.  At the same time, agency actions and private settlements have expanded the traditional model, presenting new strategic options for resolution. 

The Institute seeks to advance the dialogue around these changes, helping stakeholders identify positive innovations early on – as well as identifying problematic developments and approaches, and facilitating a bipartisan discussion of ways to improve the system.  For more information, learn about our bar conferences and judicial conferences.

In addition, the institute provides opportunities to counsel at all level of practice, partnering with attorneys to take the next step in their careers through our Next Generation program.

Complex litigation is the powerhouse of today’s civil litigation system; quantitatively these cases represent over one-third of the federal civil docket, and qualitatively the harms alleged are amongst the most serious in terms of aggregate damages and numbers of victims.  Yet the background against which these high-stakes, bet-the-company cases are being litigated is shifting. 

Emory’s Role

This is a moment of tremendous strategic development for complex litigation on all fronts. But which new techniques, approaches, and strategies for resolving claims are improvements, and which are normatively concerning? How can challenges be addressed to promote the efficient pursuit of justice, given the existing legal framework? 

The institute seeks to provide a forum for practical discussions between key stakeholders—free of the particular facts and zealous advocacy required in any specific case—in order to assess emerging challenges and engage in a constructive dialogue designed to create common ground around potential solutions.

The institute’s advisory board is comprised of preeminent, established players and emerging leaders within the complex litigation bar, representing a diverse range of perspectives and insights. 

The board’s composition includes experts in both class actions and multidistrict litigation (MDL), as well as key players in not only federal litigation but also parallel state court litigation, in order to ensure that all stakeholder constituencies and perspectives are represented. These board members are tasked with advising on the strategic direction of the institute, as well as providing financial resources and support for the institute’s programming.

Most federal judges now preside over a class action at least once during their career. And, with multidistrict litigation (MDL) matters now representing one-third of the federal civil docket, not only will virtually every district court judge serve as a transferor judge, but many are being called upon to serve as transferee judges, managing these complex cases. 

The institute seeks to provide support and assistance to judges at all levels of experience—from the increasing number of newly confirmed judges anticipating their first complex litigation matter, to judges who have successfully presided over many class actions and MDLs. In particular, the institute is well positioned to facilitate bench-bar dialogue about the practical issues faced by litigants, new challenges identified by counsel as the next frontiers and battlegrounds in the mass claims arena, and the effectiveness of evolving judicial strategies in managing complex litigation.

In 2016, the institute will co-sponsor its inaugural judicial training program, with the Federal Judicial Center and Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation. The two-day program will focus on the unique challenges presented by the settlement of mass claims matters. 

Complex litigation is the setting for many of the most difficult challenges facing our system of civil litigation today, whether they arise from the number of alleged victims, the severity of the harm, or the potential impact on the nation’s economy. At the same time, because of the unique nature of the challenges we seek to resolve through complex litigation, its core practices are necessarily in constant flux. 

Parties and their counsel are thus investing millions of dollars based on their expectations about how new discovery challenges will be resolved, how innovative settlement provisions will be interpreted, and myriad other questions and issues. The institute therefore seeks to provide a forum for counsel from both the plaintiff and defense sides of the bar to come together, to discuss these emerging issues in depth, to find common ground, and to develop common sense solutions that will promote the efficient provision of justice to all parties.

The agenda for each conference will be focused on allowing for a deep dive into a limited number of specific emerging challenges within the field of complex litigation, rather than merely a broad survey of the field. Each conference will be designed by experienced leaders in the complex litigation bar, tasked with identifying the most salient issues to practitioners, as well as ones that will benefit the most from bi-partisan discussion outside the context of any individual case. 

The nature of complex litigation inherently requires that court-appointed MDL leadership and class counsel have substantial expertise not only as lawyers, but also in the specific and unique challenges of managing mass claims litigation. It is therefore essential that repeat players bring their expertise to the leadership in these cases.  But it is equally important that new leaders are being identified and trained, ensuring that a diverse set of opinions and innovative new ideas can be brought to bear in today’s cases, and guaranteeing that a new generation is prepared to lead tomorrow’s litigation. 

As in society as a whole, the bench and bar face significant challenges in ensuring ethnic, gender, and other forms of diversity amongst the leadership in complex litigation. In recent years, remarkable progress has been made in some areas, but much work remains to be done before the leadership in complex litigation is reflective of society.

Through its programming, the institute seeks to help to lay the groundwork for continued progress on this front. In the coming years, the institute will partner with the bar in providing training programs for attorneys at all levels, to assist each lawyer in taking the next steps in his or her career. 

2016 Next Gen Conference

The inaugural NextGen Conference will be held in December 2016.  The focus of the conference will be to help partners, who already have advanced legal skills, begin to develop the skills and acumen necessary to move from committee roles or second-chair slots into steering committee and lead counsel roles.  The conference also seeks to provide an opportunity for these lawyers to begin to build those networks.  Equally important, the conference will provide an opportunity for a dialogue with the judiciary about the structural barriers attorneys continue to encounter in their career development. 


The Next Generation initiative is spearheaded by two successful and accomplished members of the bar who have decades of experience in training and mentoring attorneys at all phases of their career.

Leigh O'Dell, of Beasley Allen, is known for her extensive involvement in the Vioxx litigation, most notably serving on numerous trial teams and providing strategic leadership during the settlement process.  Leigh currently serves as a member of the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee in the consolidated transvaginal mesh litigation. 

Tripp Haston, of Bradley Arant Boult Cummings, has served numerous life sciences clients in litigation leadership roles and his experience includes matters in North America, South America, Europe and Asia. Tripp is the immediate past president and board member of the International Association of Defense Counsel and a board member of DRI and Lawyers for Civil Justice.

Next Gen Advisory Board

The NextGen Advisory Board is comprised of rising stars, recognized by both plaintiffs’ and defense's counsel as leaders who will help define the field of complex litigation in the decades to come.  They are partnering with Emory to develop a series of events to train and promote the next generation of leaders within the complex litigation bar.