Legal Climate: Where does NC Stand?
North Carolina is routinely lauded as one of the best states for business. In recent years, however, our state’s legal climate has failed to measure up to the high standards we have set in other areas.
The Current Challenge
The U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform is widely recognized as a leading arbiter in assessing the impact of each state’s legal climate on job creation and economic growth. Periodically, the Institute releases its Lawsuit Climate Survey, ranking each state on a range of variables to determine how their legal climates match up when compared against each other. This is how North Carolina ranked in the last three Lawsuit Climate Surveys:
2015 – 7th
2017 – 33rd
2019 – 16th
While North Carolina boasted a top-10 legal climate in 2015, we fell 26 spots in 2017, marking the state’s lowest ranking in the survey since 2002. The state regressed on all major elements evaluated by the ranking, including:
- Enforcement of meaningful venue requirements
- Overall treatment of tort and contract litigation
- Treatment of class action lawsuits
- Proportional discovery
- Scientific and technical evidence
- Trial judges’ impartiality and competence
- Jury fairness
- Quality of appellate review.
The decline in our legal ranking in 2017 naturally generated concern among the business community. However, when our state takes a hit like this one, it is important to analyze its cause – and the CLI did just that, working to evaluate the reasons behind our fall so we could begin to address them. One contributing factor we identified was the shift in North Carolina’s Supreme Court to a body that was more inclined to expand liability.
While we have made strides to improve our legal climate since 2017, there is still much work to be done if we hope to protect the progress we have made and prevent North Carolina from sliding backward once again on legal competitiveness. The CLI is now focused on reclaiming – and then cementing – North Carolina’s position as a top-ten state for legal competitiveness, so that our legal ranking better matches that of our overall business climate.
Interested in supporting the efforts of the NC Chamber Legal Institute?
Contact Legal Institute President Ray Starling to learn more about what you stand to gain from your engagement.