Duke Law certificate course offers practical training on MDLs

Feb 7, 2020Latest News

mass-tort MDL course at Duke Law

Multidistrict litigation — in which multiple lawsuits from numerous districts are consolidated under the jurisdiction of one federal court — has captured headlines and reshaped the legal landscape in the United States. These MDLs now account for 52% of the federal civil caseload, and the trend shows no signs of slowing down. Just last week, plaintiffs in the opioid litigation in Illinois announced the largest all-cash privacy class action settlement to date.

For nearly a decade, Duke Law School has hosted academic conferences on MDLs and facilitated critical scholarship, such as the often-cited Guidelines and Best Practices for Large and Mass-Tort MDLs. However, as MDLs have become a more frequent means to organize and settle cases, the need for practical instruction in the field has continued to grow. To address this, Duke Law will offer its Mass-Tort MDL Certificate through an interactive live webcast on November 9, 2020. The program was offered for the first time last year and filled to capacity; feedback was overwhelmingly positive.

“This was probably the most informative and useful program I have ever attended. Anyone considering working in an MDL or even just filing cases in an MDL should attend this program, as it teaches how the process works in real life,” one attorney said after last year’s program. Another lawyer who was new to the practice said the networking opportunity was “second to none” because of the built-in Q&A time and social events that allowed participants the opportunity to meet and discuss issues with the faculty.

This year, the Mass-Tort and MDL Certificate Program has expanded course offerings to provide tailored curricula for both plaintiff and defense attorneys. The program addresses issues that are typically only learned through years of work with lead counsel and MDL committee chairs, including training on the conventions and customs of MDL litigation, e.g., committee appointments and working with special masters; specific approaches to topics like depositions, documents productions, fact and expert discovery, privilege logs, etc.; and best practices and insights into emerging trends.

Registration for the 2020 program is open; it will take place at Duke Law School on March 11-13, 2020, with accommodations at the Washington Duke Inn (on Duke University’s campus and just a short walk from the law school). The standard program is open to both defense and plaintiff attorneys, and an advanced certificate program is available to those who completed the regular certificate last year. Information on the certificate, the complete schedule, faculty, logistics, tuition, and registration can be found on our website at judicialstudies.duke.edu/MDL2020.

For new attorneys looking to transition into the mass-tort field or who are interested in pursuing committee appointments, the Duke Law certificate can provide a valuable opportunity for career advancement. The advanced certificate is equally valuable to those in the practice who want to deepen their knowledge and expand their network with preeminent leaders in the field.

“This was probably the most informative and useful program I have ever attended. Anyone considering working in an MDL or even just filing cases in an MDL should attend this program as it teaches how the process works in real life.”

The faculty includes top practitioners, many with decades of experience. Among them: Francis McGovern, Duke Law professor and special master in the ongoing opioid litigation; Elizabeth Cabraser, founding partner of Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein LLP and lecturer at Berkeley Law; Chris Seeger, founding partner of Seeger Weiss; and Paul Geller, of Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd LLP. Seven U.S. district court judges are also on faculty to provide perspectives from the bench.

Unlike a more doctrinal law school course, this program focuses on practical skills and applied concepts in all aspects of multidistrict litigation — from making the initial decision to file to navigating the complexities of post-trial payouts — and is designed to help participants solve realistic problems. One session is will give participants the chance to workshop potentially sensitive and confidential issues with an expert panel.

The program also aims to broaden and deepen the field of lawyers who are skilled in MDL. Many have lamented that MDL is dominated by a small group of highly skilled attorneys. As the 2018 MDL Standards and Best Practices notes: “Mass-tort MDL cases affect a large and diverse group of people, and ensuring diversity in the leadership of the cases will enhance public trust in the courts and will improve the likelihood of consideration of diverse ideas and perspectives that MDLs require.” By attracting new talent and strengthening the experience of a larger number of lawyers, Duke’s certificate program hopes to not only help diversify the field of practitioners in mass-tort and MDL litigation but also to help to improve the administration of justice and public confidence in the judiciary.

To learn more, visit https://judicialstudies.duke.edu/MDL2020.

— Eric Surber

Limited scholarship funding is available for attorneys who demonstrate financial need; contact Lora Beth Farmer at lora.farmer@law.duke.edu for more information and to apply.