Introducing the Legal Counsel role: an alternative path for litigators
Every year, publication after publication covers law firm associate satisfaction—a perennial subject of interest for law firms and corporate legal departments alike. In an industry where law school too often does too little to prepare attorneys for the realities of legal practice, considerable resources are spent on training new lawyers and keeping them happy. Certain keys to associate satisfaction are obvious: a collaborative and supportive work environment, significant levels of responsibility and client contact, opportunities to self-start one’s own career, and no micromanagement. But newer generations of attorneys are going further, challenging long-held assumptions about the legal workplace by demanding greater work-life balance and enthusiastically seeking out entrepreneurial roles.1
Enter the world of litigation funding. Commercial litigation funders, which have grown exponentially in the United States in the past five years, typically hire lawyers with between five and eight years of litigation experience to help them due diligence potential investments. This underwriting role—called Legal Counsel at Bentham—combines the best aspects of fast-paced litigation (the constant intellectual challenge, the strategizing, the need to think on your feet) with a unique focus on the business of being a lawyer, all while offering a much better work-life balance than the typical law firm associate sees.
To start with, commercial litigation funders are still new enough and small enough (Bentham, for example, currently has under 20 employees across its four U.S. offices) to have the feel of a start-up. Joining a relatively young industry means that all hands—including Legal Counsel—are on deck to brainstorm investment opportunities, business strategies, and other industry issues. Funders’ relatively small size also means that the work itself is intensely collaborative, even while Legal Counsel are performing due diligence largely autonomously.
The best part? While “due diligence” may sound dry, it’s anything but. Conducting due diligence on a potential investment means meeting with claimants and counsel to discuss complex commercial cases, digging into the facts and law to spot potential legal issues, and advising Bentham on legal risks – the best parts of being a litigation lawyer without any haggling over document productions, drafting rote answers to discovery requests, or managing document reviews. And because new investment opportunities are presented every day, the job never gets boring. If anything, Legal Counsel may find that they learn more about the law working for a funder than in a more traditional role, given the sheer number of cases they are exposed to.
Legal Counsel also have an opportunity to learn more about the business of law than the vast majority of associates at law firms. How a litigation budget is formed, how law firms finance their work, what funding terms are fair and equitable for all parties: these are all questions that a associate is rarely asked, but that Legal Counsel are called on to answer every day.
Finally, the business focus of funding also means that Legal Counsel have opportunities to leverage (and build) their own networks for business development purposes long before they typically would be expected to do so at a law firm.
For litigators interested in a better work-life balance and a more entrepreneurial role while continuing to apply their litigation skills, the Legal Counsel role is a great fit. Current openings at Bentham can be found here.
- ABA Journal, “Millennial lawyers are forging their own paths – and it’s wrong to call them lazy,” (Jan. 2018), available at http://www.abajournal.com/magazine/article/millennial_stereotypes_these_lawyers_object.