Litigation funder Burford Capital has set aside $100m to fund cases led by female and minority ethnic lawyers, arguing it will incentivise firms to appoint more diverse legal teams.
According to the funder, ‘vanishingly few’ commercial disputes are led by women or ‘racially diverse’ lawyers, and ‘innovative economic levers’ are needed to solve the problem.
‘Burford’s work will not only help to increase diversity at law firms but will also augment companies’ and law firms’ existing ESG initiatives,’ said Christopher Bogart, chief executive of Burford. ‘We are eager to continue our work with our law firm and corporate clients to bolster their progress in their own diversity initiatives.’
The $100m will be reserved for commercial litigation and arbitration in which female or racially diverse lawyers are first or second chair; clients are represented by firms that are owned by women or racially diverse lawyers; or a female or racially diverse lawyer serves as plaintiffs’ lead counsel or chairs the plaintiffs’ steering committee. Cases in which a female or racially diverse lawyer is the client relationship manager or earns ‘origination credit’ will also be entitled to the funding.
In eligible cases which generate their expected returns, Burford has also pledged to contribute – on its client’s behalf – a portion of its profits to organisations that promote the advancement of female and racially diverse lawyers. It did not specify the size the donations will take.
Burford first launched the ‘Equity Project’ in October 2018 with $50m in legal finance capital earmarked for matters led by women. It has now broadened the initiative to tackle racial inequality ‘and thus address a deficit in representation that is even more acute than the gender gap’.