Insurance litigation can be exceptionally lengthy and complex and involve hundreds of millions of dollars in potential damages. And in Fiona Chaney’s view, it may be the perfect opportunity for law firms and claimants to test the advantages of utilizing litigation finance.
“Often, you have clients who have been through a covered event, like a hurricane, where they are facing a substantial business interruption loss, or they’re in a third-party liability case, like a large securities matter, and the insurer isn’t paying,” Chaney says. “Assuming the merits are there, those cases are a great chance to explore litigation funding.”
Chaney, who joined Bentham IMF’s Los Angeles office in November as an investment manager and legal counsel, has an extensive background in insurance coverage and other litigation matters. She’s using that experience to find and evaluate potential investments for Bentham – and to help spread the word about the advantages of funding.
“I think many lawyers may not fully understand litigation funding, and that has led to some hesitancy in exploring the options available to them,” Chaney says. “I’m excited to reach out to my colleagues and contacts in the insurance recovery world to help educate them about litigation funding and how it can benefit their practices.”
With 15 years of litigation and trial experience, Chaney has a deep appreciation of the risks and potential inherent in litigation. For example, her years of experience gives her keen insight into the potential value of a case. “I can separate the wheat from the chaff, boil claims down to the key issues, and accurately assess vulnerabilities,” Charney says.
She’s also a highly effective networker – something of a rarity in a profession well known for attracting introverts. “I’m very interested in what people are working on, and I’m one of those rare lawyers who actually enjoys going to conferences and meeting as many people as I can,” Chaney says. (The networking extends to the greens as well; Chaney is an avid golfer.)
Chaney began her legal career as a paralegal first working for a solo practitioner and then at Troop Steuber Pasich Reddick & Tobey, where she met Kirk Pasich, one of the preeminent lawyers in the insurance bar. Chaney subsequently earned her J.D. at Loyola Law School, Loyola Marymount University. During law school, she clerked for Pasich, who had moved to Howrey LLP, and worked on matters with him and the firm’s insurance coverage group. After graduation, she joined Howrey as an associate.
Almost immediately, she began having the kind of hands-on trial experience that young litigators these days often only dream about. As a second-year associate, she sat in on a six-week jury trial where Howrey acted as co-counsel, and saw the case resolve with a nine-figure verdict for the client. “I felt very lucky,” Chaney says. “I received real, first-hand experience doing this kind of work out of the gate.”
In 2010, Chaney left Howrey with members of its insurance recovery practice for Perkins Coie, where she continued to represent energy and technology companies in high-stakes insurance coverage matters.
In 2011, Chaney took a one-year hiatus from her law firm to work in a position managing a patent licensing program that involved diverse patent portfolios. Several cases involving those patents went to trial in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. “I was able to be the client and work with outside counsel,” Chaney says.
In 2012, she rejoined Pasich at Dickstein Shapiro. At Dickstein, she took on insurance coverage matters involving the sports and entertainment industries and represented A-list entertainers, professional athletes, sports teams, producers, and other high net-worth clients. Her practice also included representing energy companies in high-profile insurance coverage matters, and with Pasich, she tried the country’s first insurance coverage case stemming from Superstorm Sandy, which resulted in a bad-faith verdict against AIG. She was promoted to partner shortly after the trial.
After leaving Dickstein in 2015, she joined the Liner LLP partnership together with Pasich and their Los Angeles based insurance coverage team. When Liner announced its merger with DLA Piper, one that conflicted out policyholder-side work, she and her insurance recovery partners founded Pasich LLP, a boutique insurance recovery litigation firm.
Her diverse experiences, Chaney says, have given her the ability to “see litigation from many sides, from being an associate working in the back office, to being on the front lines as a first- and second-chair trial lawyer, to being the client.” They also give Chaney real-world insight into the issues facing companies and firms seeking financing. “I understand the tension that firms often face when they worry about taking on contingency cases or when they think their ratio of alternative fee arrangement matters is getting a little high. They want to make sure the bills are paid,” Chaney says. “That’s when you can really benefit from funding a case or taking on a portfolio funding arrangement.”
The move to Bentham has also meant a few adjustments for Chaney. After years as an advocate, she’s now focusing on “evaluating risk and striking a fair deal between the company, the claimants and their lawyers.” And she’s no longer burdened by the need to record every billable minute of her day.
Says Chaney: “I’m transitioning out of living my life six minutes at a time.”