As we head into 2024, our Annual Litigation Trends Survey reveals that risks and evolving regulation around technology and cybersecurity dominate corporate counsel concerns, as mounting cyberattacks and a patchwork of data privacy laws deepen litigation exposure for organizations. At the same time, rapid developments in artificial intelligence (AI) have contributed to cybersecurity risk and increased intellectual property (IP) risks, with regulators moving to develop new policies around AI as the dramatic growth of generative AI tools like ChatGPT outpaces existing legal frameworks.

Our Annual Litigation Trends Survey further reveals that organizations faced more regulatory proceedings in 2023 compared to the previous year. Class actions around securities and bank and financial fraud are also on the rise, while environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues pose a growing concern for both class actions and litigation more generally.

For 19 years, Norton Rose Fulbright’s Annual Litigation Trends Survey research has tracked changes and trends defining the litigation landscape, from dispute types and exposure to litigation preparedness and in-house legal staffing, by polling legal professionals at organizations of all sizes across key commercial sectors.

In September 2023, we surveyed more than 400 general counsel and in-house litigation leaders based in the United States and Canada in industries including financial services, technology, retail, healthcare, real estate and construction, energy, logistics and transportation, consumer markets, and food and beverage.

In addition, we conducted in-depth interviews to supplement our quantitative survey data and guide our exploration of emerging trends and litigation challenges industry leaders are facing in 2024.

Key findings

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Cybersecurity and data protection

Norton Rose Fulbright’s 2024 Annual Litigation Trends Survey reveals that cybersecurity and data protection has become a major dispute area for organizations.

  • 40% of organizations saw their cybersecurity dispute exposure grow in 2023 – more than any other area – as cyberattacks reached record levels and the patchwork of data protection regulations grew in complexity.
  • Cybersecurity, data protection and data privacy also top the list of litigation concerns in the year ahead amid the challenges posed by data management and AI.
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Intellectual property

Norton Rose Fulbright’s 2024 Annual Litigation Trends Survey indicates that artificial intelligence (AI) poses cyber and intellectual property (IP) risks.

  • AI is a leading contributor to both cybersecurity exposure and IP vulnerabilities, with roughly half of respondents saying that the increased use of AI technology will grow their exposure in both areas in 2024.
  • At the same time, the potential downsides may not outweigh the technology’s benefits, as more than a third of respondents support the use of generative AI by their outside counsel.
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Environmental, social and governance

Norton Rose Fulbright’s 2024 Annual Litigation Trends Survey reveals that environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues are a growing litigation concern.

  • As regulatory requirements around climate and ESG disclosures take shape while anti-ESG sentiment grows, organizations are increasingly finding themselves caught in the middle. 
  • 33% of Canadian survey respondents expect to see more disputes-related exposure involving ESG matters, compared with 26% of respondents in the United States. ESG reporting will be a key focus in 2024 in Canada, as the Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) will start requiring mandatory ESG and climate risk disclosure from large Canadian banks, insurance companies, and federally regulated financial institutions. There is also a strong movement away from the large umbrella term “ESG” to a focus on "corporate responsibility and sustainability," seen as a more manageable approach to fulfilling companies' obligations around these complex matters.
  • Issues surrounding board governance, executive compensation, conflict of interest and proxy battles have also been flagged by 50% of Canadian survey respondents as something to pay attention to in 2024. Canada has a robust special situations and proxy battle market, with activist shareholders and dissidents launching campaigns against corporations seeking support for change.
  • One in 10 respondents experienced ESG-related litigation last year (compared to just two percent in 2022) – a development we anticipated in our 2023 Annual Litigation Trends Survey report.
  • 38% percent of organizations are also concerned about future ESG class actions as issues such as greenwashing, diversity policies and regulatory compliance, go under the microscope.
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Regulation and investigations

Norton Rose Fulbright’s 2024 Annual Litigation Trends Survey reveals that earlier concerns about regulatory proceedings have been borne out.

  • A greater proportion of organizations were involved in regulatory proceedings in 2023 versus the previous year, with 61% of respondents involved in at least one, compared to 50% in 2022. The average number of proceedings these organizations encountered also grew – reaching 3.9, as compared to 3.5 in 2022 and 2.9 in 2021.
  • Respondents are bracing for a further uptick in regulatory matters in 2024.
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Litigation preparedness

Norton Rose Fulbright’s 2024 Annual Litigation Trends Survey finds that in-house legal teams are likely to grow in the year ahead.

  • As organizations expect more legal disputes across the board in 2024, more than half (52%) expect to hire internally to meet demand – much higher than the 36% who said the same in our 2023 Annual Litigation Trends Survey report.
  • In 2023, most in-house disputes teams were small, with the majority having 10 or fewer lawyers, while organizations tended to spread their litigation work among multiple law firms.
  • In addition, 2023 saw a notable drop in corporate counsel’s confidence in their ability to handle litigation, as organizations confront legal issues ranging from mounting regulatory investigations to heightened dispute exposure in 2024.
  • Only 29% of respondents say their organizations are very prepared to address litigation in 2024, compared to 43% in last year’s report. The majority (51%) place themselves in the “somewhat prepared” category, compared to 40% last year, reflecting a more tempered outlook for the year ahead.
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Class actions

Norton Rose Fulbright’s 2024 Annual Litigation Trends Survey indicates that class actions involving antitrust, securities and bank and financial fraud have grown.

  • In the wake of last year’s banking crisis, the share of organizations involved in bank or financial fraud class actions more than doubled, to 21% in 2023 from nine percent in 2022.
  • In addition, 18% experienced a securities class action last year (up from 10% in 2022), and it is an area of future concern for 31% of organizations that experienced class actions in 2023.  


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Managing Partner, Canada
Partner, Canadian National Chair, Litigation and Disputes

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