Growing Female Participation in Multi-District Litigation

The Duke Law Center for Judicial Studies hosted a conference in April to discuss ways more women can gain leadership roles in Class Action and Multi-District Litigation cases. The key purpose of the event was to lay the groundwork for the drafting of bench-bar best practices. The conference, “Increasing the Number of Women and Minority Lawyers Appointed to Leadership Positions in Class Actions and MDLs,” was held in Atlanta. A new study found the percentage of women in lead MDL roles was 16.6 percent in litigations filed from 2011 to 2016.

In an article published by in, Director of the Duke Law Center for Judicial Studies John K. Rabiej explains, “We want to get this on the radar screen of key judges. If they make appointments, then law firms and companies will follow.”

Among the fifty most frequently appointed MDL plaintiffs lawyers, only eleven are women. Elizabeth Cabraser of Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein happens to be one of the repeat players. The Volkswagen diesel emission MDL is her 18th leadership role. “Remember, this is not an honor and it’s not a sinecure—this is a job,” she said. “Judges need leads with the talent and resources to fund the litigation.”

Roberta D. Liebenberg spoke on Panel One, which addressed the Status of Current Class-Action/MDL Appointments of Women and Minority Lawyers.


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