This course will focus on the broad array of skills needed by lawyers to manage complex litigation projects, including advising a board of directors, developing a strategic plan, organizing and managing teams, and communicating with the media. Each week, students will learn and put into practice these skills in the context of the actual litigation involving the drug Vioxx. After the drug was removed from the market in 2004, the pharmaceutical company, Merck, faced claims from over 60,000 individuals after the drug was linked to heart attacks, strokes, and other cardiovascular events after long-term use. Merck’s decision to try these cases in federal and state courts, rather than seek an early settlement, further complicated an already complex legal situation. Using this rich fact pattern and drawing from the professor’s experience as Merck’s former general counsel, students will explore significant phases of this litigation, understanding the challenges faced by Merck’s lawyers “in real time.”
Class discussion and exercises will be based on readings that include instruction and background on the relevant skills, public information on the Vioxx litigation, and hypotheticals drawn from the litigation. Students should expect to prepare approximately six short written submissions, such as slide decks with notes, during the semester. Classes will include student presentations based on these exercises. Grades will be based on the interim written submissions, participation in classroom exercises and discussion, and a final written project.