Using Litigation Finance to Close the Gender Gap in Law

Marla Decker

The advancement of women lawyers has been a discussion in the legal profession for decades, and one that I’ve followed closely.  As a young associate, I was encouraged by the efforts underway at various firms to attract and promote women into senior positions.   While women were admittedly underrepresented in leadership roles at law firms, the tide seemed about to shift.

Unfortunately, the problem persists.  So what more can be done?

Fellow litigation funder Burford Capital has an idea.  It recently announced that it will earmark $50 million to fund women-led litigation matters.   Kudos is certainly due to Burford for leading the litigation-finance industry in this inspiring direction.   The initiative, Buford says, was born out of its observations that there are “woeful number of opportunities to fund litigation matters … being run by women.”   Burford analyzed its data going back to 2009 and found that less than 10% of the investment opportunities it considered included women in a leading role.

Unfortunately, Burford’s experience isn’t unique from my perspective.   I have consistently observed in my three plus years at Lake Whillans that the vast majority of litigation opportunities that come to us are led by men.  And often the teams we encounter don’t include any women at all.

Yet Lake Whillans has funded investments–including investments that have already resolved favorably–that have been or are being led by talented women.  We’re eager to make more of those investments. We welcome women to take advantage of the opportunity litigation finance presents as a tool to drive all-important business development.

Entrepreneurial women lawyers should be cataloging their potential clients and identifying the ways each can benefit from litigation finance.  For example, ask yourself the following: Is this a client that is cash-strapped and needs capital to operate its business while the litigation is pending?   Would this client benefit in a future sale or offering if its litigation costs were removed from its balance sheet? Even if your client is well-heeled, does it nonetheless have affirmative litigation that it could pursue that could be monetized to offset some of its legal spend in other areas?  Would your client be helped by the endorsement of a funder to convince executives to bring litigation you view as meritorious?

Understanding the ways that litigation finance can meet a client’s needs can help create and win business, without expending your political capital to get your firm to offer alternative fee arrangements.   Save that capital for the next battle. Instead, reach out to me and we can discuss how litigation finance can help meet your goals.

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The best way for companies and their counsel to determine if litigation finance is an attractive option is to discuss it with us.