Behind the scenes at Bentham IMF, we employ a talented cadre of legal counsel, many of whom have left law firms—and billable hours—behind to focus on helping our company make critical litigation investment decisions.
Bentham’s legal counsel work closely with our investment managers to vet litigation, advise on financings, and help manage investments in our portfolio. They help prepare the term sheets for deals and prepare and present submissions to our Investment Committee, which decide what matters get funded. In other words, they are key players in the funding process who strongly influence how Bentham deploys its financing dollars.
To find out more about their work, we recently spoke with several of Bentham’s legal counsel—Ronit Cohen in New York, John Harabedian in Los Angeles, Amy Geise in Houston, Sarah Jacobson in New York and Connor Williams in Los Angeles—about the investment process, how their jobs differ from being a law firm associate, and the unique challenges and opportunities of working in litigation funding.
Part one in this two-part “From Billables to Bentham” series focuses on the day-to-day aspects of being a legal counsel for Bentham IMF. Part two will focus on how our legal counsel collaborate with Bentham’s investment managers to make deal decisions, and the strategies they employ to objectively evaluate cases for investment.
What does your typical day look like, and how does it compare to that of a law firm associate?
Jacobson: One of the great things about this job is that there is no “typical” day. Since every investment is different—a new set of lawyers, a new set of issues, a different court/judge and [litigation] in various stages—my day might include a call with a lawyer to speak generally about potential claims; strategizing and crafting deal terms; review and evaluation of pleadings; review of a trial transcript; research and analysis of legal issues; or preparing for an Investment Committee call. The pace is much quicker than my day-to-day at the law firm, and I’m constantly being exposed to new areas of the law or a new fact pattern in a jurisdiction that I’m not used to practicing in.
Harabedian: There’s no comparison really. Although, our job requires a fair amount of legal analysis on a daily basis so there is some similarity there, [but] I would say every other aspect of our job is different—from not having to bill hours to the amount of ownership over the entire deal-making process that we have.
Geise: It’s nice not being beholden to court deadlines; that definitely helps make the days less frantic! That said, the parties we work with often need a financing decision quickly, so we face different pressures.
Williams: Not billing time is a huge difference. That really frees me up in how I think about and approach matters—and I find that the less rigid structure can lead to breakthroughs when and where you least expect it. Also, I’m much more engaged with business development and the overall future of the company than I was at a law firm, which I like.
What is it like stepping away from engaging in advocacy for clients and objectively assessing the merits of a case?
Williams: It’s refreshing to be able to look at a case objectively instead of being immediately locked in to one side or strategy. In some ways, it’s like clerking, because your goal is to find the right answer, but it’s also a different challenge, because you’re seeing cases before they’re fully formed and you need to predict where they’re going.
Cohen: Nearly all potential clients feel aggrieved, believe their case is meritorious, and worth an enormous sum of money. That is only one side of the story though. In our role as legal counsel we have to strip away the personal tale to analyze the pure legal questions.
Harabedian: It’s a lot like clerking for a judge. Your main concern is calling balls and strikes and trying to assess what the right answer is. It’s a truth-seeking process, which can be difficult.
Geise: This has been challenging for me, primarily because being objective can actually be harder than being an advocate. When you’re an advocate, someone tells you what side to argue—you are, to an extent, insulated from the responsibility of deciding which side is “right.” As legal counsel, you have to choose your own position, which is challenging because cases that advance to the point of needing funding are almost always very legally and factually complex.
What have you found most interesting since becoming a legal counsel at an investment firm?
Cohen: The most fascinating thing about my job at Bentham over the past six years, has been the ability to watch the growth and recognition of the industry. In the early years, a lot of time was spent explaining just what we do and why it’s useful. While those conversations have not been obviated yet, it seems that, more often than not, what we do is widely understood. The fact that what we do is valuable is readily apparent.
Williams: I expected the legal work to be interesting, and it has been. But this also been a crash course on deal structuring, development, and even marketing, and I’m really enjoying the business side of the job, too.