As we write this introduction to the latest Burford Quarterly in June 2020, there is still much that remains uncertain about the world and the economy in which we now live and work.
We can all be certain that, following months of its endless repetition, we never want to hear the phrase “new normal” ever again. We can be certain that it will be some time before many of us achieve what we might consider normalcy in our working environment, and that our experiences likely won’t involve every colleague going into an office every day. And as a result, we can be certain that we must move towards systemic new ways of operating as we emerge from the initial, urgent response of “flattening the curve”.
Just like every other business, Burford had to make immediate adjustments across our global operations. We adapted along with our clients to the evolving impact of the pandemic on commercial litigation and settlement while maintaining an unchanged commitment to our clients’ business imperatives. We quickly shifted all of our worldwide offices to remote working—and in this we were aided by our historical reliance on technology, by many of our team members’ comfort with this style of working as well as by our collaborative culture and relatively flat structure.
At Burford, we see moments of external pressure and change as a time for innovation and problem-solving. We were founded in 2009 in the ashes of the last great recession, and in that environment, we found ways to create value for our clients, shareholders, employees, and communities precisely because we were comfortable with disruption and because we were laser-focused on moving forward, not on trying to navigate back to something lost.
Like then, we believe Burford will be an essential partner to law firms and legal teams in the months and years ahead. We would emphasize three key points.
First, we are comfortable with innovating in a new and ambiguous environment while thinking and planning for the long term. We work and speak with many leading law firms around the world, and we’ve noted that many are adjusting to the present moment with resiliency measures that will tide them over for the next quarter or two, but that won’t equip them to reinvent how they manage cost, cash flow, client demand and revenue generation in a new environment. The obvious example is the drive to cut and furlough lawyers and staff—a painful short-term solution that can actually leave law firms less able to serve clients when they need to. Likewise, those cuts leave firms less prepared to generate revenue at just the moment firm clients are seeking ever more creative solutions as a result of their own business pressures and needs.
Second, Burford’s leadership position in legal finance—based on our scale, available capital, experience and diversity of solutions and structures—makes us an ideal partner for the long term. We have our own permanent capital and the stability of an institutional finance partner with professional, transparent processes and practices. With an investment portfolio of over $4 billion, Burford is here for law firms and legal departments now and for the long-haul.
Third, this is a time for bold ideas, not half measures. We are not going to return to the pre-Covid, pre-downturn world. Boldness is needed to be ready for what lies ahead. Legal finance as practiced by Burford equips law firms and legal teams to take systemic measures to better manage legal cost and risk while unlocking the value of their legal assets to turn risk into revenue and working capital. We urge our clients and prospective clients to embrace the changes that the present environment poses and know that we are eager to earn the opportunity to partner with you in the months and years ahead.
Aviva Will is Co-Chief Operating Officer with overall responsibility for Burford’s global marketing, origination and underwriting activities. Before joining Burford in 2010, Aviva was a senior litigation manager and Assistant General Counsel at Time Warner Inc., where she managed a portfolio of significant antitrust, intellectual property and complex commercial litigation, and a litigator at Cravath, Swaine & Moore.
David Perla is Co-Chief Operating Officer with overall responsibility for Burford’s global marketing, origination and underwriting activities. Prior to joining Burford, David served as President of Bloomberg BNA Legal Division/Bloomberg Law, where he oversaw Bloomberg BNA’s legal and related products, including its flagship Bloomberg Law enterprise legal news, information and tools platform.