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5 minutes with... asset recovery expert Tom Evans

  • Asset recovery
November 9, 2023

Tom Evans is a Counsel with responsibility for assessing and underwriting legal risk as part of Burford’s EMEA investment team.

As part of Burford's legal finance and asset recovery team in Europe, what are the most important trends you are seeing now?

There is an increasing focus from the legal department on unleveraged assets and often those include a high number of unenforced claims and judgments. In fact, recent research released by Burford shows that vanishingly few senior in-house lawyers (2%) say they recovered 100% of the value of their judgments and awards over the last five years. This demonstrates that businesses are continuing to leave money on the table and solutions are needed to help recover the full value of pending judgments and awards.

Other trends shaping the industry include cross-border collaboration, digitalization and the rise of cybercrime, and anti-money laundering (AML). Asset recovery efforts are also expanding to encompass environmental and corruption cases, while third-party funding is increasingly utilized for high-value cases.

It's important to note that this landscape and industry are continually evolving, so staying updated is essential to navigating these trends effectively. Businesses like Burford raise the awareness for participants in the legal services market of unexamined value they could seek to recover with legal finance.

What are the most important factors impacting global asset recovery right now?

The interest rate environment is influential in decisions that businesses are making about risk and value in their assets. In fact, over half (52%) of in-house lawyers say they are likely to seek cost-sharing solutions with counsel or legal finance providers to mitigate the impact of the current economic climate.

Asset recovery seems to be a domain where businesses typically exhibit less familiarity compared to mainstream merits litigation finance. But this is changing, as more businesses see the benefits of financed enforcement. According to recent data, the most influential benefit of financed enforcement is the possibility of access to immediate liquidity and working capital (77%), closely followed by cost reduction (72%). By engaging with Burford, businesses have the advantage of accessing both capital and expertise. This partnership empowers them to partake in a relatively less familiar market, as opposed to navigating it alone or solely relying on their law firm and external advisors. 

Describe the range of client solutions you and the team provide on a day-to-day basis.

We offer a broad range of client services spanning various scenarios. One way we can work with our clients is to serve as a passive capital provider, while the client proceeds with their chosen law firm and external advisors for an enforcement project. Alternatively, the client can leverage our capital to fund the enforcement endeavor while simultaneously engaging our asset tracing and investigations practice that sits within our asset recovery team. In this capacity, we transform into a strategic partner, collaborating closely with the client, their law firm and external advisors to recover the award or enforce the judgment. 

On the far end of the spectrum, a client may have litigation fee fatigue. In such cases, they may choose to transfer the entirety of their award or judgment to us. We acquire the asset outright, although the client can opt to retain a contingent interest that would still give them upside. This represents the complete spectrum of our involvement – from passive capital provider to a transactional counterpart, entailing full risk transfer.

How have your conversations with clients about legal finance changed since joining Burford in 2016?

In the seven years I've been at Burford, the most notable transformation I've observed is a heightened recognition of legal finance—both clients and law firms have become more sophisticated in understanding potential frameworks and pricing options for various matters.

Focusing on my specialty, I believe there is now a significantly amplified awareness within distressed legal finance. This awareness encompasses potential remedies when faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges in enforcing judgments against uncooperative debtors. Furthermore, there are more financial and expertise-based strategies aimed at unraveling these intricate issues on behalf of clients. 

5…. favorite destinations in Europe.

In no particular order, my favorite destinations in Europe are:

  1. South West France is a fantastic surfing destination but also fantastic food and mix of French, Spanish and Basque culture.
  2. Ile de Re, located on the west coast of France and just north of Biarritz. It is a great destination to visit in the summer months.
  3. Milan is very underrated in my opinion. I think it is slightly neglected because people think of it as just a business or an industrial center. It has an amazing energy about it in addition to being an industrial center for interior design and fashion.
  4. Wales and the UK, my background and heritage. The West of Wales, which is out on the Irish Sea, is a wonderful place in Europe. It's not visited often and is not a touristy spot to visit since it is a challenging place to get to. It's quite similar to Cornwall and the southwest of England, but without the crowds.
  5. Sardinia is magical place with a combination of Italian food, fantastic weather and wonderful beaches.