The Courts Are Reopening: Simple Tips to Prepare for the Next Rush of Cases

May 12, 2021

At a glance:

  • The main takeaway: COVID-19 dramatically slowed the volume of court cases over the past year, but recent changes signal the potential for impending flood of new cases.
  • Impact on your business: Facing a backlog of civil litigation en masse requires proper planning to manage the volume.
  • Next steps: Prepare for the next rush of cases by understanding the influence COVID-19 will have on civil litigation and consider actions to adjust your approach.

Is a wave of post-covid cases coming? Contact Aprio’s Litigation Support and Forensic Accounting practice today to make sure you have the best support on hand.

The full story:

From the moment the first government shutdown order went into effect in the U.S., it was like pressing a pause or alt button. Families went into lockdown, businesses went remote, and everything else went online. As so many aspects of our lives slowed down or changed directions, so, too, did the courts – especially regarding civil litigation.

One year later, we’re beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel – but what are we likely to find as we reemerge? For attorneys, a deluge of new court cases is imminent, as well as the continuance of older cases that were put on pause last year. Handling the sudden increase will require more preparation than ever before.

A wave of civil litigation is coming

The pandemic significantly influenced the courts over the past year, both in the volume and the types of litigation cases that moved forward. Logistically, courts could not try as many cases after social distancing requirements forced many to close their doors, immediately shifting criminal cases to the top of the priority list. Meanwhile, businesses were less likely to pursue civil litigation due to the volatile effect COVID-19 had on the economy.

For months these circumstances have slowed civil litigation and created a backlog of cases, but recent shifts suggest the dam might be about to break. The reemergence of civil cases is primarily being driven by three factors:

1. The courts are reopening due to easing restrictions, and more courts are increasing their caseload. There is more capacity to hear civil litigation, and some courts are now allowing more in-person hearings and trials .

2. The economy is improving as the country begins to reopen and the vaccine roll-out broadens. One side-effect may be increased economic activity resulting in plaintiffs having improved economic standing and feeling more comfortable filing civil complaints where defendants may have increased resources.

3. The impact of COVID-19 is taking shape as more individuals get a clearer sense of the pandemic’s influence on their businesses and investments. This reality setting in is expected to drive more civil cases and complaints.

Now is the time to prepare

To contextualize what is to come, think about litigation related to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The PPP is particularly vulnerable to fraud, and the prevalence of these fraud cases exemplifies the courts’ recent focus on criminal matters. However, we expect to see a wider variety and larger volume of PPP-related litigation as the courts and the economy begin to reopen – it won’t be exclusively focused on fraud anymore.

There are additional steps you can take to brace yourself for the potential wave of other civil cases:

  • Be flexible. Every case will be different with unique needs and fact patterns. Don’t try to force a one-size-fits-all approach.
  • Embrace technology. Innovative technologies for processes like e-Discovery, document sharing, and client collaboration can save time and improve security, allowing you to focus on more complex matters.
  • Prioritize documentation. Your clients will have a lot to lose and even more to prove. Documentation will be key, so make it one of your first conversations.
  • Have a key contact who can help you identify the right experts. Forensic accountants and financial experts are frequently asked to provide their expertise to assist counsel with matters.  Good experts know their strengths and weaknesses and also have a rolodex of other qualified experts who may fit that client’s specific situation.

Prepare your experts. Consider whether your client’s case may require damages or technical expertise and begin scoping and interviewing different experts that can add value to your case.

Related resources

So far, COVID-19’s biggest impact on the courts has been to slow everything down, but that’s all about to change. As the courts reopen and the economy continues to strengthen, you can expect an overwhelming rush of new cases, especially in civil litigation. Simply, it makes sense to take steps now to prepare.

Aprio’s Litigation Support and Forensic Accounting team can help. Contact our team today to discuss how we can help ease your burden and achieve better outcomes for your clients.


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About the Author

Haley Beatty

Haley Beatty is a forensic accounting and financial crime reporting expert. Her specialties include anti-money laundering (AML) and know your client (KYC) investigations and regulatory compliance. Haley has advised some of the world’s largest financial institutions and has led teams of up to 500 investigators. She works closely with clients to establish and advance AML compliance, monitoring, and reporting programs that exceed regulatory requirements. Haley has experience advising a broad spectrum of financial industry clients, from FinTech companies to MSBs and transaction processors.