Professor Ratner (BA, Stanford University 1988; JD, Harvard Law School 1991) is the chief academic officer of UC Hastings.
Professor Ratner teaches civil procedure, legal ethics, and the business of law practice, and produces scholarship at the intersection of those fields. He joined the UC Hastings Faculty in 2012 after teaching at Harvard Law School as a visiting lecturer and then as a visiting assistant professor from 2009 to 2011. Professor Ratner was a litigator at the San Francisco-based plaintiffs’ firm Lieff, Cabraser, Heimann & Bernstein, LLP, where he was a partner for ten years and where he prosecuted product liability, environmental, mass personal injury, consumer, and human rights actions. Among other high-profile matters, Professor Ratner prosecuted and settled Holocaust-era slave labor, looted asset, dormant bank account and unpaid insurance claims against European companies, producing global settlements in those cases worth more than $7.5 billion.
Areas of Expertise (4)
Selected Presenter, Vanderbilt Law School's Branstetter Litigation & Dispute Resolution Program 2017 New Voices Workshop (professional)
The Branstetter Program supports research and curriculum in civil litigation and dispute resolution. Held annually, the Branstetter New Voices Workshop brings together junior scholars, senior scholars, and Vanderbilt faculty in the areas of civil justice. Each year, junior scholars are selected via a blind review process to present at the New Voices Workshop.
Student Choice Award: Professor of the Year 2017 (professional)
Conferred by the Associated Students of UC Hastings College of the Law
"Outstanding Contribution to UC Hastings" Award 2017 (professional)
Conferred by UC Hastings College of the Law
Co-winner of the sixth annual Fred C. Zacharias Memorial Prize for Scholarship in Professional Responsibility 2015 (professional)
Awarded by the AALS Section on Professional Responsibility for Class Counsel as Litigation Funders, 28 Geo. J. Legal Ethics 271 (2015)
Rutter Award for Teaching Excellence 2015-2016 (professional)
The William and Sally Rutter Award for Teaching Excellence - Outstanding Professor of the Year 2015-2016
Student Choice Award: Professor of the Year 2015 (professional)
Conferred by the Associated Students of UC Hastings
Visionary Service Award (professional)
Conferred by the UC Hastings College of the Law Board of Trustees.
Harvard Law School: J.D., Law 1991
Stanford University: B.A., Economics 1988
- California Bar Association : Member (Since 1992)
- District of Columbia Bar Association : Member (Since 1999)
- New York Bar Association : Member (Since 2000)
- American Association of Law Schools - Litigation Section - Chair 2016
Media Appearances (11)
Announcing New Academic Dean Morris Ratner
UC Hastings College of the Law online
Professor Morris Ratner has assumed the role of academic dean at UC Hastings, effective August 1st, 2017.
Goodbye Cases, Hello Legal Tasks
The days of outside counsel handling an entire case may be coming to their end. Instead, clients are increasingly unbundling legal services, assigning tasks piecemeal across multiple firms and lawyers, in order to find the most cost efficient legal services, according to a forthcoming paper in the Fordham Law Review. These changes, according to the paper, mark a shift in who controls litigation costs and tasks, moving from the lawyer to the client, and parallel similar developments in the rules of civil procedure.... The paper, "Restraining Lawyers: From 'Cases' to 'Tasks'" by U.C. Hastings associate law professor Morris Ratner, traces these shifts to the rise of the "managerial judging movement" in the 1980s.
Clients Are Splitting Litigation into Affordable Pieces, Report Says
Corporate Counsel online
In-house counsel have more tools than ever to split up litigation into smaller, more affordable "tasks," says a soon-to-be published paper in Fordham Law Review. And some clients are taking advantage of these methods.
The paper, titled "Restraining Lawyers: From 'Cases' to 'Tasks,'" argues that law practice is experiencing two parallel shifts: civil procedure amendments are focusing on cost and resource drain, and the private market is giving in-house departments more options to unbundle legal work for lower costs. It's a welcome movement, says the paper's author, Morris Ratner, Associate Professor of Law at University of California, Hastings College of the Law.
Litigation is Being Diced Up and Doled Out, Paper Says
In a draft paper titled "Restraining Lawyers: From ‘Cases’ to ‘Tasks’," to be published in the forthcoming Fordham Law Review, Morris Ratner, an associate professor at University of California, Hastings College of the Law, describes a changing litigation landscape where market forces — such as clients’ unrelenting demand for value — along with federal procedural changes expanding court involvement in case management, are creating “an erosion of the traditional division of authority between lawyer and client.”
Bay Area Shareholder Sues Wells Fargo Over Unauthorized Accounts
SF Gate online
The suit, announced at a news conference, was sprinkled with newspaper headlines and excerpts from congressional hearings, including Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s demand that Stumpf resign and “give back the money that you took while this scam was going on.” But a law professor not involved in the case said Sarsfield’s suit did not appear to be a publicity stunt, but a serious action that would likely be followed by similar suits as well as claims of securities fraud.
Morris Ratner, who teaches business law at UC Hastings in San Francisco, said such suits are “a natural consequence of the kind of misconduct of which Wells Fargo is accused.”
UC Davis and UC Hastings to Offer New Joint JD/MBA Program
For "some students – for example, students interested in starting or joining ventures in which they will be called upon both to give legal advice and to make business decisions – a concurrent degree program makes sense," says professor Morris Ratner, from UC Hastings. "For those students, our arrangement with UC Davis creates wonderful opportunities, and nicely supplements our existing JD/MBA programming options."...
How Entrepreneurial Are Entrepreneurial Class Actions
JDSupra Business Advisor online
Plaintiffs’ lawyer-turned-professor Morris Ratner has published a new article on making litigation costs a profit center for class action plaintiffs. You may remember he wrote about this issue before with Professor William Rubinstein. This new article, titled Class Counsel as Litigation Funders, makes it clearer that he isn’t talking so much about allowing plaintiffs’ counsel to charge a markup on photocopies as he is trying to establish parity between the lawyers who fund a case by fronting the costs and the lawyers who work a case...
Scalia's quip about gay-marriage protester stirs bias debate
But Morris Ratner, a law professor at UC Hastings in San Francisco who also teaches ethics, said Scalia’s comment was no more indicative of bias than his past judicial opinions. “I wouldn’t have said the comment if I were a justice on the court in a highly charged case,” Ratner said. But, he observed, “judges always reveal their preferences when they rule. The longer someone’s been sitting on the court, the more we know their preferences. I find it hard to get too worked up about this quip.”...
New Hastings prof a hero to holocaust claimants
Morris Ratner practiced law at a top San Francisco firm, taught at Harvard Law School and recently joined the faculty of San Francisco’s U.C. Hastings College of Law. Those curriculum vitae bullet points pale in comparison to Ratner’s signal achievement: leading the legal charge against Swiss, German, Austrian and French entities in securing an $8 billion settlement for Holocaust survivors...
The Rumpus Interview With Morris Ratner
The Rumpus online
"Professor Ratner and his legal team sued Swiss, German, Austrian, and French corporations that profited from Nazi atrocities by retaining Holocaust victims’ dormant bank accounts, failing to pay on life insurance policies, and using slave labor. We met in Professor Ratner’s office on the UC Hastings campus to talk about the litigation, particularly the suit against the Swiss banks, which settled in 2000 for $1.25 billion in the United States Federal Court for the Eastern District of New York. Distribution of that settlement fund, which included a claims program involving tens of thousands of dormant account claimants, just wound up in 2013. While we spoke, I couldn’t help but think how the person sitting across from me has played an important role in realigning history."
UC Hastings & UC Santa Cruz Offer New JD/Masters in Applied Economics & Finance
UC Hastings College of the Law online
UC Hastings is pleased to announce its newest concurrent degree program, a JD/Masters in Applied Economics and Finance, in coordination with UC Santa Cruz. The program, set to begin Fall ’16 semester, allows students to complete both degrees in three-and-a-half years, less time than if the degrees were pursued serially.The point-person for the program is UC Hastings Associate Professor Morris Ratner, who also oversees UC Hastings’ JD/MBA concurrent degree programs with several other universities.
Event Appearances (12)
Upcoming - Branstetter Litigation & Dispute Resolution Program's New Voices Workshop 2017
Presenting Selected Paper: "Class Conflicts" Vanderbilt Law School, Nashville, TN
AALS Annual Meeting Litigation Section Program (Moderator) San Francisco, CA
Towards Tomorrow's Legal Education - Implementing Change with a New Perspective and Vocabulary
International Association of Law Schools UC Hastings College of the Law, San Francisco, CA
Fordham Law Review Ethics Colloquium
Civil Litigation Ethics at a Time of Vanishing Trials Fordham Law School, New York City, NY
Aggregate Litigation Ethics - Panel
International Legal Ethics Conference VII Fordham Law School, New York City, NY
The Quality of Legal Representation in U.S. Class Actions: The Problem of Conflicts
International Conference on the Resolution of Mass Disputes: Collective Redress, Class Actions and ADR University of Haifa, Israel
Ethical Integrity Challenges Facing the Judiciary
Professional Ethical Integrity: Cornerstone for Rule of Law Reform Around the Globe, UC Hastings College of the Law Conference San Francisco, CA.
Compensating Victims of Man-Made Disasters – The American Experience
The Legal Impact of the Fukushima Disaster, UC Hastings College of the Law Conference San Francisco, CA.
A Monument Man in the Courtroom: Litigating the Holocaust
Inaugural Lecture, UC Santa Cruz/UC Hastings College of the Law Social Justice Speaker Series San Francisco, CA.
Battling Goliath: The Impact of Plaintiff-Side Litigation Against Corporate Defendants
Shaking the Foundations: The West Coast Progressive Lawyering Conference Stanford, CA.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Ethical Issues in Class-Action Settlements
ABA Annual Meeting San Francisco, CA.
Lessons from Chevron: Legal Ethics and Transnational Litigation
Lessons from Chevron: Stanford Journal of Complex Litigation Symposium Stanford, CA.
Sample Talks (1)
UC Hastings Social Justice Speaker Series- April 2014
Presentation re Holocaust-era litigation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0vXSHYI4BXY
Selected Articles (10)
The approach of the twentieth anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Amchem Products, Inc. v. Windsor provides the opportunity to reflect on the collapse of the framework it announced for managing intra-class conflicts. That framework, reinforced two years later in Ortiz v. Fibreboard Corp., was bold, in that it broadly defined actionable conflicts to include divergent interests with regard to settlement allocation; market-based, in that it sought to regulate such conflicts by harnessing competing subclass counsel’s financial incentives; and committed to intrinsic process values, insofar as, to assure structural fairness, the court was willing to upend a settlement that would have solved the asbestos litigation crisis. Since the 1990s, the lower federal courts have chipped away at the foundation of that conflicts management regime, by limiting Amchem and Ortiz to their facts, narrowly defining the kinds of conflicts that warrant subclassing, and turning to alternative assurances of fairness that do not involve fostering competition among subclass counsel. A new model of managing class conflicts is emerging from the trenches of federal trial courts. It is modest, insofar as it has a high tolerance for allocation conflicts; regulatory, rather than market or incentive-based, in that it relies on judicial officers to police conflicts; and utilitarian because settlement outcomes provide convincing evidence of structurally fair procedures. In short, the new model is fundamentally the mirror image of the conflicts management framework the Court created at the end of the last Century. This Article provides an institutional account of this transformation, examining how changes in the way mass tort and other large-scale wrongs are litigated make it inconvenient to adhere to the Supreme Court’s Twentieth-Century conflicts management blueprint. There is a lesson here: a jurisprudential edifice built without regard to the practical realities of resolving large-scale litigation cannot stand.
Developments in the domains of procedure and private contract highlight a continuing shift in authority away from lawyers and towards courts and clients accomplished by a conceptual downshift from “cases” to “tasks.” The 2015 amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure limit attorney and party discretion by further empowering the trial court judge to dissect, assess the value of, and sequence case activity, including discovery. At the same time, in the private sphere, sophisticated clients aided by advances in project and information management are controlling legal spend by unbundling cases into tasks. From that position, they can source projects to low-cost providers. Clients are also increasingly demanding litigation budgets and seeking value-based pricing, both of which work best if there is heightened communication between lawyer and client regarding the means to be pursued to achieve litigation aims. These regulatory and market restraints on lawyers and lawyer-driven adversarialism, while pointing in a similar direction, differ fundamentally in terms of their reach, efficacy, and fairness. Despite their differences, these developments in tandem have the potential to inspire the creation of new norms and duties calling on litigators to think more deeply and inclusively about the value of litigation tasks from the perspective of court and client.
Challenges facing the judiciary and solutions to those challenges were the topics of two afternoon panels at a conference hosted by UC Hastings College of the Law titled "Professional Ethical Integrity: Cornerstone for Rule of Law Reform Around the Globe" (February 26-27, 2015). This Article - a contribution to the law review symposium issue for that conference - contextualizes and summarizes the two panels. The panel on ethical integrity challenges facing judges included Anthony J. Scirica, Senior Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and a Senior Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania School of Law; Hualing Fu, Professor of Law at the University of Hong Kong; and Me Mario Joseph, a human rights attorney and co-founder and managing attorney of the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux in Haiti. The panel on solutions to those challenges was moderated by Judge William A. Fletcher of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and included Judge Evgeni Georgiev, a Bulgarian trial court judge; Judge John R. Tunheim of the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota; and Mirte Postema, then Senior Program Officer for Judicial Independence with the Due Process of Law Foundation. The Author, Morris Ratner, was one of the conference organizers.
In a prior article, William Rubenstein and I explored the theoretical and policy rationales for making cost investment in class actions directly profitable, e.g., by awarding a multiplier on costs - a departure from current practice pursuant to which costs are merely reimbursed. This Article grapples with the doctrinal question of whether such cost profits are permissible. That inquiry traverses three ethical boundary lines which, as currently drawn, fail to fully acknowledge the distinct role played by plaintiffs’ counsel in class actions as litigation funders: the lines between “professional services” and other charges; consent and its absence; and permissible and impermissible conflicts.
Courts reward attorneys for investing time in class action lawsuits more generously than they reward them for investing money in the costs of those suits. Class counsel may directly profit on time investments in two ways: by billing lawyers at market rates though paying those lawyers less and by receiving multiplied fee awards. Those same attorneys in those same situations may also recover their costs but courts may not — or at least do not — permit the attorneys either to mark up their costs or to receive cost multipliers. As cost profits are rarely even debated, there is no good defense of why they are unavailable, but one assumes that courts are less comfortable awarding attorneys a markup on their copying machine than they are for their legal work. The assumption that costs cannot be directly profitable appears therefore to belittle costs, relegating them to a secondary position in the fee and cost award analysis and treating them as something of a tagalong or afterthought. Our goal in this Article is to give costs their due. We describe current jurisprudence, demonstrating how, given a choice between investing profitable time or reimbursable costs, profit-maximizing attorneys will find time investment more attractive than cost investment. We then explore the effects of this bias, showing that because cost investments are not directly rewarded, profit-maximizing attorneys will predictably (1) avoid certain cases; (2) select suboptimal modes of proceeding within cases they do bring; and then (3) settle those cases prematurely. Assuming that conclusion is unfortunate, we consider and propose mechanisms for remedying it. While our proposals are initial and therefore tentative, our commitment to the project of centering costs is not: it is grounded in the belief that the legal system’s anti-cost-investment bias impedes access to justice for individuals whose claims can be established only with substantial cost investments by entrepreneurial lawyers. Centering costs — and considering measures as conventionally discouraged as permitting third parties to profit from cost investments — has the potential to serve a larger public good.
Non-class aggregate settlement practices have out-paced the development of legal doctrine in multidistrict litigations (MDLs). Forced to improvise, trial courts have sought a firm foundation for exercising authority over these private, contractual settlements, specifically to justify and guide court control over attorneys’ fees. By imposing across-the-board limits on contingency fees recoverable by individually-retained counsel, MDL trial courts have effectively re-written fee contracts between lawyers and clients in tens of thousands of cases. The trial courts in three recent proceedings – Vioxx, Guidant, and Zyprexa - grounded the fee cap orders in their “inherent authority” to regulate members of the bar to enforce ethics rules. But the fee-capping decisions in these cases stray dramatically from the ethics doctrine that purportedly informs them. This boundary-pushing reliance on ethics serves procedural goals, i.e., making room for enhanced attorneys’ fees to court-appointed common benefit counsel who achieved global settlements. Unresolved tension within the MDL governance regime regarding the extent to which MDL aggregation converts individual litigation to group litigation partly explains this misuse of ethics doctrine, one which potentially delays the development of clear answers to difficult questions about MDL aggregation procedures and specifically about the proper use of the attorneys’ fee lever as an MDL case management tool. Those questions can and should be answered by Congress or by trial court judges directly as procedural questions, rather than indirectly as ethics questions.
This Article offers a new model for conceptualizing plaintiffs’ class action attorneys, and thus for understanding principal-agent problems in class action litigation. It responds to the work of Professor John C. Coffee, Jr., who, in a series of influential articles, demonstrated that principal-agent problems may be acute in class action litigation because class members lack the information or financial incentive to monitor class counsel; class counsel is thus free to pursue his own interests at the expense of the class members. But what are those interests, and how do they diverge from the class members’ interests? Professor Coffee provided one answer to this sub-set of questions, presenting a conventional account of class counsel and the precise parameters of his disloyalty corresponding with three descriptive assertions: that class counsel is either a solo practitioner or in a small firm; that he is predominantly interested in maximizing his law firm profit; and he capably pursues his fee-maximizing goal by investing his time in cases based on confident predictions about expected fees. In this Article, I articulate an updated and competing conception of the dominant class action attorneys and firms: the leading firms today are relatively large and internally complex; law firm structural complexity creates diverse incentives other than maximization of law firm profit; and class counsel invest time in cases for complex reasons other than the effect on expected fees, particularly because fees are notoriously difficult to predict. Modeling class counsel to recognize this complexity has three virtues: it better reflects the actual characteristics of the most significant class action attorneys, and hence is a more accurate descriptive tool; as such, it enables a more precise understanding of the extent and nature of agency or loyalty problems; and thus, finally, it provides a more solid basis for reforms. In particular, this new model sheds insight on the importance of direct versus incentive-based regulation to manage agency costs in class actions. In light of the diverse incentives this new model reveals, direct regulation of outcomes by trial courts using enhanced final approval standards should be a central part of any package of reforms to manage agency costs in class litigation.
This book chapter assesses the legacy of Holocaust-era litigation as a blueprint for addressing other categories of historical wrongs.
Lawyers pursuing human rights individual or class action cases on a contingency basis cannot afford to select the wrong cases, or to posture those cases in an unfavorable manner. Defendants, wielding greater resources, are usually capable of purchasing big-firm legal representation, accompanied by the large volume of offensive legal work often intended to delay proceedings, bury plaintiffs' counsel in paper, and scare over-burdened courts into dismissing or limiting victims' claims. Plaintiffs' counsel can expect to invest substantial attorney time on legal issues and substantial hard costs on tools such as experts, factual research, and translation services (for foreign parties)...
This Article compares Executive and Judicial Branch approaches to resolving Holocaust-era litigation against private companies.