Growth and Acceptance of Litigation Funding Continues

Notwithstanding widespread criticism, litigation funding continues to grow and gain acceptance in a variety of ways. Recent events show that there are more litigants – and a wider variety of litigants – seeking funding and that, correspondingly, the investment in funding continues to expand and diversify. Finally, courts are starting to show more awareness of the value of litigation funding in the pursuit of justice.

Recent surveys show that the percentage of lawyers in the United States whose firms used litigation finance grew from 7 percent in 2013 to 11 percent in 2014, and then to 28 percent in 2015. At a recent conference for insurance lawyers and defense attorneys, 35 per cent said they had been involved in a case where litigation funding was used.

As more parties seek third-party funding, more investors are making funds available.  Increasingly, hedge funds are providing capital to funding companies, expanding the availability of funds.  To be sure, some major players have left the market, unwilling to accept the risks of the market.  But, on the other hand, new kinds of funders keep entering the market.  For example, crowdfunding is now being used to finance some cases through platforms such as TrialFunder, which uses proprietary computer models to let people invest modest amounts in lawsuits.

Judges are beginning to recognize the public policy benefits of litigation funding. For example, in Lawsuit Funding LLC v. Lessoff, No. 650757/2012, 2013 BL 343470 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. N.Y. Cty. Dec. 4, 2013), the court pointed out that public policy favors litigation financing because it “allows lawsuits to be decided on their merits, and not based on which party has deeper pockets.”  Generally, courts have not concluded that a funder’s security interest violates the ethical prohibition on sharing fees with nonlawyers. In Counsel Fin. Servs., LLC v. Leibowitz, 2013 BL 199584 (Tex. Ct. App. July 25, 2013), the court confirmed that litigation funding does not violate the prohibition on fee-sharing.

All of these developments demonstrate that the momentum in favor of litigation funding is building. Increasing demand for funding promotes an increase in the supply of available capital, and more widespread investment increases the diversity of funding models and makes it ever more clear that litigation funding can solve a variety of problems in modern litigation.

Keywords:  litigation finance, legal reform, third-party funding, ethics, litigation finance best practices

Works Cited:  Joan C. Rogers, Litigation Funding on Rise in Big Cases, Panel Says, Bloomberg (March 23, 2017) available at https://www.bna.com/litigation-funding-rise-n57982085617/