Multidistrict litigation, or MDL, now dominates federal dockets, impacting hundreds of thousands of plaintiffs and routinely grappling with issues of national import. On May 20, 2022, the Deborah L. Rhode Center on the Legal Profession at Stanford Law School and the Berkeley Law Civil Justice Research Initiative hosted a small group of distinguished scholars, judges, policymakers, and practitioners to discuss the lawyer-client relationship in MDLs. The Convening sought to analyze contemporary MDLs’ plaintiff-related strengths and weaknesses and to identify practical steps that judges, lawyers, or policymakers might take to address various deficiencies.
This document begins with an overview of MDLs’ major strengths and deficits, as identified by various Convening participants, then turns to a set of potential reform proposals. Rather than endorsing any particular proposal, we seek to capture those ideas that generated the most enthusiastic discussion, to preliminarily consider the proposals’ possible benefits and drawbacks, and to chart a possible research agenda that might better inform future reform activity.