Jun 25 '14
We’ve spent a lot of time, over the months, writing about changes in the legal sector… talking to the people stirring things up and leading an industry revolution. And in all the debate, nothing has got people shouting more than discussions over pricing and ways to approach the funding of legal services. We’re delighted to be talking to a real expert in this field.
Iain McKenny is a former Latham & Watkins senior associate who specialises in international disputes. He now works with third party disputes funder Vannin Capital, overseeing and monitoring international arbitration and litigation investments and investment opportunities. Working with businesses, insolvency practitioners and law firms, Vannin Capital offers funding solutions for commercial litigation or arbitration claims. They one of the most active funders in the London and Paris markets… and, as one of their leading lights, Iain knows all about the impact this new field is having on legal services provision. He tells us more in our most recent 0-140 expert interview.
Elephant Creative: Where are you right now?
Iain McKenny: I’m at Vannin Capital, the world’s largest private equity backed third party funder.
EC: In 140 characters, what do you do?
IMK: I work across the London and Paris market building dispute risk profiles, monitoring investments, and helping claimants to help themselves.
EC: So, what is litigation funding?
IMK: Litigation funding is the cure to deep pockets beating good claims. We align our interests with the claimants and support our attorneys.
EC: And, can anyone get access to it or just businesses?
IMK: Anyone with a commercial claim can get access to it. We see a lot of individuals who have foreign direct investment claims, for example.
EC: What do you make of the legal aid debate and access to litigation in the UK?
IMK: Access to justice has to be more than the right to issue a claim. It must also be about access to experienced and responsible attorneys.
EC: How do you think law firms in the UK have been affected by the economy?
IMK: The most exciting change is the rise of the boutique firm. Leading lights from big firms embracing an entrepreneurial spirit, e.g. 3 Crowns.
EC: Would you think that changes in technology have affected the way many firms in the UK approach litigation and the ways they market it?
IMK: Absolutely. Firms embracing technology can make efficiency gains that they can use to augment their competitiveness.
EC: And presumably changes in the way firms are structured and promote services more generally?
IMK: Business models are being challenged. But firms with good pyramid structures can still leverage their broad base to tremendous advantage.
EC: Do you think firms have been influenced by changes in the US legal sector as well?
IMK: We work in an international environment. Changes ripple both ways across the Atlantic
EC: So, let’s go back to the beginning. How did you end up in litigation funding?
IMK: Luck. I was looking for an in-house counsel role that could use my litigation/arbitration experience. Vannin was the perfect fit. Still is.
EC: Why not stay in private practice or go in-house?
IMK: It is like going in house but with the diversity of private practice. It’s a rare balance.
EC: Business development and marketing isn’t really something lawyers concern themselves with is it?
IMK: Good one. The modern commercial lawyer has to include BD and marketing in their arsenal. You’ve got to be in it to win it.
EC: Which law firms do you most admire in terms of marketing and business development?
IMK: The best are the ones that have been able to create a mystic about their brand. It is something the magic circle firms do very well.
EC: So, what have you seen that best illustrates this approach?
IMK: The ‘fearsome foursome’ piece comes to mind – the 4 firms in-house counsel fear the most. Either fear or magic is good mystic creation.
EC: So, what are your predictions for funding litigation in the UK over the coming years?
IMK: Maturity and transparency I suspect. Funders shouldn’t operate in the shadows. We add value and support. That will be recognised.
EC: And how do you think firms need to respond?
IMK: Commercially aware firms should embrace it and thrive. Third Party Funding allows them access to a reservoir of claims that they currently can’t reach.
EC: How’s the calendar looking for the coming weeks and months?
IMK: We’re very busy, which is great. And we’ve just made a key hire in Paris – Yasmin Mohammad is a great addition to our team.
EC: Finally, what are your long term goals?
IMK: I’m focused on making sure that Vannin is the go to Third Party Funder in London and Paris. We have the skills and the appetite for it.