Chris Bogart is Chief Executive Officer, a director and a co-founder of Burford, and he also serves as a member of its Commitment Committee. Under Mr. Bogart's leadership, Burford has become the largest global provider of legal finance and a force in the global legal market. He is one of the most frequently cited and most sought-after experts in the field across the mainstream media and legal and financial press.
The International Legal Finance Association (ILFA), the first such global association, has just launched. Can you explain what ILFA is and what it intends to do?
The launch of ILFA—an evolution championed by Burford—is an exciting milestone for the commercial legal finance industry. After more than a decade of rapid growth driven by client demand, the industry is taking yet another important step in its ongoing maturation and professionalization. In terms of what the association intends to do, the answer is really twofold: ILFA will amplify the global voice of the commercial legal finance industry to judicial systems and policy makers and also serve as a helpful resource for users of legal finance. For instance, ILFA will work to publish industry-specific data and research. As awareness of and education around legal finance continue to improve, it will become significantly easier for clients—and particularly corporate clients—to access the financing solutions they need to manage better the risk inherent in pursuing affirmative litigation.
Commercial legal finance has been around for quite some time, and it continues to grow and evolve organically. Why is there a need for a global association?
When Burford launched in 2009, the commercial legal finance industry was essentially composed of only a few players offering single-case financing—and since then, the industry has exploded, both in the types of financing structures available, as well as in the sheer number of industry participants. As is the case for any large developing industry, there is a clear and obvious need for an association to advocate for its members and the businesses they serve. Moreover, I view the launch of ILFA as a natural step in the continued evolution of commercial legal finance, a further move toward legal finance providers behaving more like financial services institutions rather than like niche providers of specialty capital.
What does ILFA’s launch say about the state of commercial legal finance? Should it change the way legal finance users view or think about the industry?
ILFA’s launch certainly signals the vitality of the commercial legal finance industry—and presages its continued global growth—but I also see it as an important act of normalization. For many industries, the launch of a trade association would be an important if unremarkable event. For commercial legal finance, however, the occasion feels more significant, and I think that’s because legal finance has transformed from a relatively unknown tool to a widely accepted facet of the legal industry, one that the world’s leading law firms and Fortune 500 companies use on a regular basis. So, no, I don’t think ILFA’s launch should change the way legal finance users view the industry—rather, I think ILFA’s launch is an implicit recognition that law firms and businesses already have transformed the way they think about commercial legal finance. If anything, I believe that legal finance users can and should expect more than just capital from their legal finance providers going forward.
Looking ahead, what do you see on the horizon for the commercial legal finance industry?
These are still early days, and I fully expect legal financiers to become even more sophisticated partners to their clients in the years ahead, both in terms of the financing structures they are able to offer as well as the value they add beyond capital. At Burford, for instance, law firms and companies routinely come to us to access growth capital. Monetizations, which provide law firms and companies with immediate cash for purposes entirely unrelated to the underlying litigation, have grown markedly more popular. Just this summer, Burford offered legal finance capital in exchange for a passive equity stake in the London-based boutique PCB Litigation, becoming the first legal financier to take an ownership stake in a law firm. This type of innovation will only become both more common and more complex in the years ahead. But even more importantly, legal finance providers will increasingly be differentiated by the insights they can offer clients into how to achieve the best economic outcomes as efficiently as possible. I believe we’ve only just scratched the surface of what lies ahead for the commercial legal finance industry.