May 31, 2023

Complex Litigation Symposium Sheds Light on Access to Justice

Legal experts, judges, and students examine the impact and importance of class actions and aggregate litigation at a recent symposium.

The Complex Litigation Symposium, held on March 17, 2023, at Lewis & Clark Law School, explored the significance of class actions and multidistrict litigations (MDLs) in ensuring equal access to justice. The brainchild of Lewis & Clark Law School law graduate Jessie Holmes ’23, who persuaded Professor Klonoff to go forward with the project, the symposium brought together legal experts, judges, and law students who provided invaluable insights into the world of complex litigation and its implications for both plaintiffs and defendants. It was conducted entirely for students.

Professor Arthur Miller of New York University School of Law joined Professor Klonoff to introduce the symposium. Miller discussed the origins and purposes of the class action rule. Throughout the day, speakers shed light on various aspects of complex litigation. Professor Myriam Gilles (Cardozo Law School) discussed arbitration clauses as a tool companies use to avoid class actions. Professor Brian Fitzpatrick (Vanderbilt University Law School) explained that the class action device is actually a conservative one because it does not rely on government agencies to enforce individual rights.

The symposium also featured sessions dedicated to specific areas of complex litigation. Amy Keller, a managing partner at DiCello Levitt, shared her experiences litigating high-profile data security and consumer privacy cases, underlining the importance of holding industry giants accountable. Diandra “Fu” Debrosse Zimmerman, another DiCello Levitt managing partner, showcased her relentless advocacy for individuals harmed by wrongful conduct, especially in mass torts and discrimination cases. Dan Flynn, also with DiCello Levitt, discussed the cutting-edge area of environmental class actions.

Another symposium highlight was the session on careers in aggregate litigation, featuring Adam Levitt, a co-founding partner at DiCello Levitt, and Jessie Holmes ’23. They shared their experiences and encouraged law students to pursue careers in complex litigation, emphasizing the potential for meaningful impact on society.

The judicial perspective was provided by Judge W. Royal Furgeson Jr., former U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of Texas, and Judge Vaughn R. Walker, former U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of California. They offered attendees a firsthand look at the complexities and challenges judges face in managing complex litigation.

As the day drew to a close, Professor Klonoff delivered closing remarks, underscoring the significance of the symposium in fostering a deeper understanding of complex litigation: “I am hoping students will consider complex litigation as part of their own career planning, whether for environmental law, mass torts, consumer law, securities, antitrust, or civil rights.”

The event received overwhelmingly positive feedback from attendees, with students appreciating the opportunity to engage with esteemed legal professionals and gain practical insights into the field. Carter Jane Pond, a rising 2L, stated, “I genuinely believe I will be able to look back at that symposium in 5 years and see it as a pivotal point in my legal journey.” Echoing this sentiment was Paige Walker, a rising 3L, who said, “The class action symposium was incredible; I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. It was one of those days that made me very jealous of people’s careers, which I think is a great sign.”

Jessie Holmes summed it up best: “This Symposium and the impact it made brings me so much hope and excitement for the future. Learning about complex litigation from Professor Klonoff and meeting the creative litigators at DiCello Levitt changed the trajectory of my career. I am so happy that I got to share that with my peers. Professor Klonoff’s generosity and dedication to Lewis & Clark students, coupled with Adam Levitt’s support and commitment, allowed for this remarkable event to take place and, as a result, empowered so many bright lights to pursue their dreams and make a difference. Aggregate litigation is about empowerment, and I think our Symposium did just that.”

Photos from the Symposium were taken by Emilie Washer and are available to view here.