George Mason University Antonin Scalia Law School

The Economics of Law Firm Ownership: Should There be Limits on Who Can Own Law Firms?

Event Details

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  • Division: Civil Justice Academy

Investment in litigation by third parties — i.e., when neither the litigants nor lawyers on contingency are the primary funders for a case (often labelled “Third Party Litigation Financing” (TPLF)) — is increasing in frequency and scrutiny. Indeed, because current disclosure rules rarely work to reveal TPLF’s existence in a case, much of TPLF is occurring under the radar of the public and even without the knowledge or consideration of the judges in cases. While prior Civil Justice Academy webinars have focused on TPLF generally — see, for example here and here — this program focused on a special subset of funding with its own special concerns: when third parties make investments in law firms in return for an ownership stake or cut from litigation attorneys fees generated in the cases the firms handle.

Should there be limits on who can own law firms? How does third party investment in law firms change law firm structure or decision-making? What effect does the ownership structure have on selection of clients, selection of cases, and management of particular pieces of litigation? What level of control should funders be allowed to exert over law firm governance? Why have ethics rules traditionally limited non-lawyer investment in law firms and how have those, or should those, rules change? What impact does funding have on case filings and the already over-burdened caseloads in the state and federal courts? What kinds of cases get prioritized when returns on investment drive firm decisions? A panel of experts with diverse perspectives on these issues joined us for an interesting discussion on one important driver in the evolution of the market for legal services and its impact on the civil justice system.

Arthur D. Burger
Director, Jackson & Campbell and Adjunct Professor teaching Professional Responsibility, George Mason University Antonin Scalia Law School

Arthur D. Burger is a national leader in legal ethics, legal malpractice, and the law governing lawyers. He chairs Jackson & Campbell, P.C.’s Professional Responsibility Practice Group, which has been representing prominent law firms and lawyers for over two decades. Mr. Burger was selected repeatedly as a Best Lawyer® in Ethics and Professional Responsibility by Best Lawyers of America© and as a Super Lawyer® in Professional Liability Defense. He also serves as outside counsel to law firms and internally as Jackson & Campbell’s in-house ethics counsel.

William W. Large,
President, Florida Justice Reform Institute

William W. Large is a passionate advocate for legal reform and an experienced attorney who led Gov. Jeb Bush’s fight to reform medical malpractice rules to cap damage awards. As president of the Florida Justice Reform Institute (FJRI), Mr. Large is responsible for the daily operations of FJRI, which is a lobbying organization in Tallahassee, FL. Mr. Large brings extensive legal and political expertise to the advocacy group and has worked in the highest levels of Florida government to bring about civil justice and tort reform.

Maya Steinitz,
Professor of Law and R. Butler Gordon Scholar in International Law, Boston University School of Law

Professor Maya Steinitz teaches civil procedure, international arbitration, international business transactions and corporations. Her research focuses on a wide range of topics including the intersection of civil litigation and corporate law, public and business international law, transnational dispute resolution, and the global legal profession. She is one of the nation’s leading experts on litigation finance. 

Ashley Evaro George, Moderator
Associate Director of the Judicial Education Program, Law & Economics Center

Ashley Evaro George is the Associate Director of the Judicial Education Program at the Law & Economics Center. Prior to joining the LEC, Ashley served as a federal outreach associate for the Mercatus Group at George Mason University.