In October of this year, Burford will reach its tenth anniversary—marking a decade of growth and innovation built on an exceptional track record of assessing and financing legal risk.
Recently, we published The Burford Annual, our annual look at trends in legal finance and in our business. We also looked at some data points that provide great insight into what’s behind our growth as the world’s largest provider of legal finance, with a current investment portfolio of $3.2 billion. As we prepare to celebrate our tenth anniversary later this year, we’ll delve into these data points one by one in the months to come.
First, we’ll look at the growth in demand for Burford’s capital.
Burford was launched in October 2009 to address the unmet capital constraints of the business of law. The traditional law firm model of running large, highly profitable businesses on a purely cash basis was under increasing stress, especially given the backdrop of the global economic crisis. Simultaneously, clients were (and with the threat of a potential pullback may once again be) under significant pressure to reduce the costs of the legal department to their organizations.
That meant that there was a significant need for our capital—but there was little awareness of the category, especially in the US, where Burford invested a significant amount of effort in educating lawyers about how and when to work with us.
In the first 12 months Burford was in business, we received 131 inquiries for funding.
Today, it’s very rare that we meet lawyers who have not heard of and considered using legal finance. Indeed 77% of in-house and law firm lawyers surveyed in 2018 perceive it as a growing and increasingly important area of the business of law.
What does that look like in terms of growth in demand?
In contrast to the 131 inquiries for funding Burford received in its first twelve months of doing business, we received 1,470 inquiries for funding in 2018.
In other words, demand grew 1022%.
Looking forward to our next ten years
Burford in 2019 is now more like an investment bank for the business of law rather a “litigation funder”. Alongside traditional single case investments in litigation and arbitration—which remains core to our business and the way we usually work with most clients in the first instance—Burford’s offerings have diversified in order to meet the evolving needs of the legal market. For instance, Burford pioneered and now dominates the growing field of portfolio-based financing arrangements—a direct response to client demands for greater flexibility and efficiency by diversifying risk across a pool of multiple matters.
Even with the extraordinary growth of our first decade, we anticipate that Burford’s second decade will see a continued expansion of the number of law firms and companies using legal finance. We regularly interact with lawyers—especially in-house lawyers—who have not themselves directly utilized legal finance, but who see and welcome its value to their business needs.
Looking ahead to Burford’s second decade, we will continue to build on that foundation and seek to invest legal capital in ways that enhance the success of our clients, their businesses and the business of law.
We look forward to Burford’s next ten years.