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Neutral Analysis: Evaluate Your Case Through the Right Lens

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Neutral Analysis: Evaluate Your Case Through the Right Lens

Source: Michigan Lawyers Weekly
Date: August 28, 2017

Mary Beth Kelly, Retired Justice, Michigan Supreme Court

Resolution Centers Vol. 31, 43 August 28, 2017 $8.50 per copy MICHIGAN Reprinted with permission from Michigan Lawyers Weekly, Inc., 900 University Drive, Ste J, Rochester, MI 48307 (800) 678-5297 © 2017 By Hon. Mary Beth Kelly (Ret.) Neutral analysis has become in- creasingly prevalent as corporate counsel attempt to manage liti- gation, settling the right cases at the right time for sums that make sense given the exposure level. The concept of neutral analysis, namely evaluation of litigation by a former judge pointing out the strengths and weaknesses, includes a myriad of forms, such as presentation by counsel, review of written submis- sions, mock presentations, review of expert reports or another evalua- tion suited to the particular dispute and its litigation stage. Neutral analysis actually has le- gal underpinnings. Consider the would-be medical malpractice plaintiff. In most states, a plaintiff cannot even file a malpractice ac - tion unless a medical doctor has attested that the proposed action has been reviewed and has merit. Likewise, at most litigation stages, relevant expert testimony is neces- sary to sustain certain legal claims, which typically results in lawyers engaging a cadre of experts to sup- port their claims. These experts typically provide financial and medical evaluations, build damage models or make jury assessments. Review of this accu- mulated expert data by a former judge as a neutral analysis, for ex- ample, can be extremely helpful in providing a judicial perspective of how strong a case is at a particular point in the litigation process. More helpful, however, may be a neutral analysis which can syn- thesize all gathered data from the company, analyze the legal claims and provide neutral feedback from the perspective of a former judge of a given case at an even earlier point in the litigation process. Like the would-be malpractice plaintiff, an in-house counsel considering whether a dispute warrants legal action finds meaningful assistance with a neutral evaluation. Neutral evaluation can assist in the decision whether a dispute even warrants the filing of a complaint or whether it is better resolved in- formally or through ADR processes like mediation or arbitration. Neu- tral evaluation after discovery can evaluate the prospects of a summa- ry relief or assist in evaluating the settlement range of a case. Neutral evaluations in the form of mock trials and mock appellate arguments are particularly helpful for those cases which appear ac- tually ready for trial or appellate argument. Again, the involvement of former judges in these exercis- es provides that unique judicial perspective and helpful insight. Much emphasis on “jury reaction” has driven mock trial exercises, yet many lawyers do not anticipate enough of the difficult evidentiary , in limine issues and other aspects of a trial controlled by the judge. Neutral analysis in the form of a mock trial without a former judge involved may lose this significant benefit to counsel. Likewise, most appellate counsel now “mock” their arguments before the actual ap- pellate argument, but typically it is to other lawyers in their firm and their clients — people all very close to the case. The true benefit of mock appellate neutral analysis is the quality of the replication of the actual argument, which a for- mer appellate judge can provide. Appellate counsel benefits from this “dry run” much like an actor benefits from dress rehearsal, rep - licating as closely as possible the actual appellate argument. Neutral analysis allows corporate counsel to see their case as the court may see it. Surely, all judges are different, but good judges have been well trained through the years to fairly apply the law to the cases before them. A neu- tral analysis allows corporate coun- sel that snapshot of any case at ev- ery stage in the litigation process, a powerful tool in any corporate coun- sel’s arsenal, to be sure. Mary Beth Kelly, Retired Justice, Michigan Supreme Court joined JAMS after serving on the Michigan Supreme Court for four years. During her tenure with the Supreme Court, Justice Kelly authored many significant decisions and served as an administrative liaison on family, veterans’ and child welfare matters for the court. She can be reached at mkelly@ COMMENTARY KELLY Neutral analysis: Evaluate your case through the right lens