Burford Capital Logo Light Burford Capital Logo Dark

5 minutes with… Christiane Deniger

December 3, 2019
Christiane Deniger

Christiane Deniger is a Vice President with responsibility for assessing and underwriting legal risk as part of Burford’s investment team. 

You practiced in international arbitration and competition until 2016. What led you to leave your law firm career to enter the then relatively new legal finance industry?

I first encountered legal finance in a BIT arbitration in 2011. As a result, I began following the industry early in my career. In 2016 I came upon an opportunity to join a leading legal finance provider, and I’ve never looked back.

It’s exciting to be at the forefront of this developing market, which, during the last three years, has grown in both size and sophistication. The 2019 Legal Finance Report reveals that lawyers most frequently cite expertise/track record as a very important consideration in choosing a legal finance provider while least frequently citing cost of capital—this change feels marked when compared to the attitudes of legal finance users when I first entered the industry.

You recently spoke on a panel for Young Austrian Arbitration Practitioners called “Third-Party Funding: Grill the Funders”. What were the key takeaways from the event?

The key takeaway was that the younger generation of arbitration lawyers has their fingers on the pulse of legal finance. I found that, as compared to many older practitioners, the lawyers I encountered at the YAAP event knew a lot about the tool and its benefits—and more importantly, they had worked on cases that were funded. I expect that this generational understanding will foster continued growth of the category.

Queen Mary University of London’s (QMUL) most recent survey on alternative dispute resolution found that international arbitration will become even more popular in coming years, with lawyers citing enforceability of awards as one of its major attractions. How will legal finance play a role in this continued shift?

We are seeing an increase in law firms and clients directly coming to us to monetize their awards, or to work on the enforcement side. Our anecdotal experience is confirmed by research, as 65% of in-house lawyers report that their companies have unenforced judgments valued at $20 million or more.

Burford is the industry leader in these types of transactions given our experience and the strength of our asset recovery and enforcement team. This type of legal finance will continue to grow, and we will see an increase in the secondary market for large awards.

Earlier this year London held its inaugural International Disputes Week and launched the City’s first dedicated arbitration facility, the International Arbitration Centre. Will such developments impact the future of arbitration in London, especially compared to emerging rival centers like Singapore?

The addition of the International Arbitration Centre may increase the amount of arbitrations we see in London. This is a good thing. We are happy to see increased arbitration in jurisdictions like Singapore and Hong Kong; however, London has always been an arbitration hub given the presence of the LCIA. London is a huge center of gravity for legal expertise including many highly qualified foreign lawyers, so it’s position as a leading seat is secure.

Statistics from the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce (SCC) revealed that of the 225 total appointments or arbitrators in 2018, just 27% were women. Figures like this demonstrate that gender disparity in arbitration is a persistent problem that needs to be addressed. How does The Equity Project help women lawyers working in international arbitration practices?

The Equity Project provides women in international arbitration practices the chance to level the playing field and put themselves forward in ways perhaps not otherwise available. The ability to access capital enables them to offer their clients more creative structures for bringing their claims and making a mark in their firms. Because legal finance reduces risk for the firm, women lawyers who have obtained Equity Project funding can confidently approach their firm contingency fee committees with matters that require significant investment but offer substantial success fees. Showcasing their financial savvy and leadership ability.

Name 5 things that you miss about living in Canada

  1. Hockey
  2. Snow
  3. My cottage
  4. Tim Hortons 
  5. Poutine