Proskauer: European law is becoming Americanised

US firm Proskauer Rose has claimed that European legal systems will become Americanised during 2008.

The forecast, based on the firm’s litigation trends report, claims the advent of collective litigation and proposals to reform the law on remedies for civil litigants shows that Europe is beginning to adopt the US approach to disputes.

Louis Solomon, Proskauer co-head of global litigation, said it was clear that the US involvement in non-US legal systems was increasing.

“Europe’s collective actions are based on the US class action and the idea of litigation funding is originally an American idea, so these instances alone show that there is a move in some arenas to the American system,” said Solomon.

Solomon added that legal issues originating in other jurisdictions were increasingly taking place in US arenas. He cited the example of large litigation such as Google v YouTube, which involved several European countries.

“The remedies, such as treble damages and punitive damages, are also a draw,” explained Solomon. “So now that the US is showing more evenhandedness by allowing foreigners to come over to the US and litigate, our arena is becoming more attractive.”

Solomon’s evidence to prove that Europe is starting to follow the US has not gone down well with European litigators.

Europeans have said that pure discussion of new ideas, such as punitive damages in France or collective redress for the whole of Europe, does not amount to the Americanisation of Europe’s legal framework.

Antony Dutton, head of dispute resolution at Norton Rose, conceded that the US did, in some situations, such as the NatWest Three case and the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, have an effect on clients in Europe.

Dutton added: “But, as was put forward at the IBA [International Bar Association] conference in Rome last June, the overwhelming view from European practitioners is that the US style here would be very difficult.

“Looking at class actions, for instance, lots of US lawyers felt that their style of class actions would be strengthening in Europe, but the Europeans were saying that they didn’t want to go in that direction. So the mood on this front is certainly not leading towards the US.”