Commercial litigation spending in the UK has fallen dramatically since 2012, international annual benchmarking research has shown.

UK corporate counsel reported litigation spend below $500,000 (£317,750) in 41% of companies, compared with 21% in 2012.

The number of businesses that have moved to this lower bracket of litigation spending will hit law firms with any dependence on instructions from clients whose litigation spend is between $1m-$5m – the percentage of companies spending in this higher bracket fell from 36% to 28% over the same period.

The figures appear in the annual Norton Rose Fulbright litigation trends survey, based on answers given by 803 corporate counsel in Europe, north America and Asia. Revenue for businesses surveyed was over $100m in 90% of those surveyed.

In-house attention is firmly on regulatory investigations – a corporate concern that finishes ahead of all types of litigation.

For all countries, half the respondents said they had spent more time in the past three years dealing with regulatory requests, investigations and enforcement proceedings. Businesses judged the UK to be the jurisdiction ‘most likely to feel an increased burden from regulatory matters’. 

Norton Rose Fulbright partner Matt Waudby said that the findings for the UK financial services sector stood out: ‘Banking and finance disputes also continue to be significant concern for UK respondents – with 21% of UK respondents identifying it as a top concern, compared to 9% across the global sample.’

When this finding was considered in the light of the pressure on litigation budgets ‘it comes as no surprise that companies are demanding innovation in pricing structures, with 41% of respondents expecting the use of alternative fee arrangements to increase’, Waudby added.