U.S. businesses are reporting a drop in the number of lawsuits filed against them and the number of lawsuits they are filing as well.

Seventeen percent of the in-house counsel at 250 major U.S. corporations said their companies did not have to defend against a single lawsuit in the past year, a sharp jump from the 11 percent who indicated they were facing a lawsuit between 2005 and 2006, according to an annual survey by the international law firm Fulbright Jaworski LLP.

American corporations have also backed off on filing lawsuits. Sixty-five percent of the respondents said their companies had initiated a lawsuit in the past year, down from 70 percent a year ago, and 88 percent in 2004.

Only 22 percent of in-house counsel expect to see the number of lawsuits faced by their companies increase in the next year. A year ago, 33 percent of respondents said they expected to see an increase in the number of lawsuits.

Government investigations have also fallen in the past year. Forty-eight percent of companies reported regulatory proceedings against them in the past year, down more than 4 percent from the previous year.

Nevertheless, the survey showed that the vast majority of U.S. businesses remain significantly exposed to litigation. Eighty-three percent of the in-house counsel surveyed said that at least one fresh case had been commenced against their company in 2006-2007, while 25 percent reported more than 20 new suits. Larger companies are targeted more often, with 50 percent of billion-dollar companies served with at least 20 new actions, and a third of them getting hit more than 50 times.

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