ACC Recognizes Shook as “Value Champion”

The Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC), announced today that the energy company and convenience store defendants in the multidistrict “Hot Fuel” litigation as well as their law firm, Shook, Hardy & Bacon, were named 2013 “ACC Value Champions” for taking an innovative, collaborative and savings-driven approach to joint defense.

The Value Champions Award for select in-house legal departments and their outside counsel is a component of the ACC Value Challenge, which promotes reconnecting the cost and value of legal services. The “Hot Fuel” and Shook partnership was one of 12 corporate law department/law firm collaborations that delivered substantial value to client organizations by cutting spending, improving predictability, and achieving better legal outcomes. Winners were selected from a group of 75 nominations.

“We commend the 13 ‘Hot Fuel’ defendants and Shook for being champions of change in the legal industry,” said Veta T. Richardson, president and CEO of ACC. “By designing an innovative strategy based on pooling their resources and collaborating extensively, they show how strong in-house counsel and law firm relationships can lead to lower costs and successful legal outcomes.”

When 52 putative class-action lawsuits were combined in multidistrict litigation in Kansas, defendants 7-Eleven Inc., Circle K Stores, Inc., Kum & Go, L.C., Marathon Petroleum Company LP, Murphy Oil USA Inc., Pilot Flying J, QuikTrip Corporation, RaceTrac Petroleum, Inc., Sheetz, Inc., Speedway LLC, The Pantry, Inc., and Wawa, Inc. united under a joint litigation strategy and reviewed law firm proposals. The defendants settled on a fee-sharing structure where each would pay for common work based on the number of cases in which it had been sued, spreading common costs in proportion to greatest exposure.

Using the economies of scale principle, defendants could pool their resources, giving each a better chance of ultimate success.

“The costs for defending the cases on our own would have been astronomical; we probably would have had to settle,” said Shawn Shearer, senior counsel of 7-Eleven. “This approach gave all of the defendants a voice that none of us alone would have had. I’m proud of the group sticking together; we maintained value for everyone.”

In addition, the group collaborated extensively as the cases progressed in trial and appellate courts across the country.

“This was cutting-edge, complex litigation. All of our moves were fully vetted,” said Shook Partner Tristan Duncan, who co-chairs the firm’s energy practice. “It is a tribute to this group of in-house counsel that they worked so well as a group. The result was better lawyering.”

In Kansas, jurors awarded the joint defendants a unanimous favorable verdict, while defendants that proceeded alone faced settlements of more than $21 million.