As head of Validity’s Houston office, Laina Hammond leverages her extensive litigation experience to partner with leading trial attorneys to help clients manage risk. In her role, Laina handles everything from finding the right cases to structuring the financial terms of Validity’s investment and monitoring the case through the course of litigation. Laina’s more than 16 years as a trial lawyer representing businesses and individuals in complex commercial and energy litigation uniquely position her as a trusted partner to lawyers and clients.
What inspired you to join a third-party funder?
In my litigation practice, I saw first-hand the challenges that the financial aspects of litigation posed to clients of all sizes. In litigation finance, I recognised a way to use my litigation training and experience in a new and innovative way – leveraging capital to help clients gain access to the courts, share risks on cases, and find relief from the crushing burden of the costs of litigation. In the last few years, I have watched litigation funding become an integral part of the litigation landscape, and it is a unique opportunity to be part of that. In my role, I have the privilege of working with some of the finest litigators in the country to help solve their clients’ problems. I’m proud that our company is making a meaningful impact on our justice system by helping to level the playing field for litigants with worthy claims.
How does your background in the legal industry affect the approach you bring to your current role?
I spent 16 years litigating on behalf of companies of all sizes in a wide variety of commercial disputes. That experience taught me the importance of building and maintaining relationships of trust with clients. As a funder, I prioritise earning and keeping the trust of the clients and lawyers with whom we work through responsiveness, honesty and transparency. My years in the Texas legal community have given me many opportunities to develop relationships with lawyers and corporate counsel that today help me source and identify cases that are best-suited for funding. Finally, my litigation background has given me the knowledge and experience to efficiently but carefully evaluate the strengths and risks of cases, and to act as a strategic partner to the lawyers and clients in the cases we fund.
As the head of Validity’s Houston office, what are your main priorities for the group’s development over the next few years?
During these challenging economic times, our number-one priority is to help companies and law firms recover from this pandemic and emerge stronger than ever. Our Houston office will continue to develop our relationships with top litigation lawyers in the state who are representing business of all sizes in important commercial disputes. We are aiming to increase the amount we are investing in Texas law firms, Texas companies, and cases pending in Texas state and federal courts. And we are continuing to grow our team in Houston and possibly expand into other cities in Texas.
How do you see the partnership between lawyer, client, and funder evolving in the future?
Lawyers and clients want to work with a funder they can trust. A sophisticated and trusted funder can help evaluate a case from a risk perspective in a way trial counsel isn’t always focused on. This can prove to be additive to the litigation strategy. Given the premium that lawyers are placing on trust in funding transactions, I expect we will see the formation of strategic partnerships between law firms and funders, where firms repeatedly work with a small set of funders and the funders, in turn, send cases to those firms as trusted partners. As we move through 2020 and this economic recovery, we will likely see more portfolio funding in which funders finance law firms directly by investing in several of the firm’s cases bundled together. We’ll see lawyers, clients, and funders continuing to enter into funding transactions that achieve aligned interests and shared risk-taking.
What tips would you give to a lawyer or client looking to bring a claim to a funder for consideration?
Be candid and direct about your case; avoid over-advocating for your position, and don’t hide the negative aspects of your case from the funder. Instead of minimising anticipated challenges, have a direct conversation with the funder about the strategies you have in mind to deal with them. Be prepared to provide information about damages and case value. These are areas that litigation counsel often consider last but funders will need to focus on earlier. Come to the funder with a fee and cost budget, as that typically guides the funder’s investment. And most importantly, work with a funder you can trust, who offers fair terms and a transparent process.
What is the best career advice you have received?
Always stay open to new possibilities and areas for professional growth, take smart risks, and don’t be afraid to step up to new challenges even before you feel completely ready.