Willkie has entered into a $50 million funding agreement with litigation finance company Longford Capital Management, LP. Longford intends to provide equity capital to fund attorneys’ fees and litigation costs, and to monetize the value of meritorious legal claims for Willkie’s clients involved in commercial litigation cases handled by lawyers based in Willkie’s Chicago office.
Willkie’s Chicago office is home to a nationally recognized team of trial lawyers that has successfully handled numerous high-stakes cases for plaintiffs and defendants in state and federal courts and domestic and international tribunals. Led by Craig C. Martin, Chairman, Midwest for Willkie and a Chambers USA-recognized national trial lawyer who has been described as “great from courtroom to boardroom,” Willkie’s Chicago office is skilled in handling cases in all phases of civil litigation, from pre-suit investigation, discovery, trial (or arbitration), and through appeal.
Clients retain members of Willkie’s Chicago team to handle their most significant cases and devise a smart strategy that best positions them to achieve their goals. Regardless of when Willkie’s Chicago team becomes involved in a case—whether it be at the pre-litigation counseling stage, after discovery, or on the eve of trial—the team prepares each case with an eye towards winning at trial and is willing and able to take the case to trial, while being mindful of potential inflection points that may allow clients to achieve favorable settlements.
Willkie’s Chicago team has deep experience in litigating cases to beneficial outcomes for its clients in numerous areas of commercial litigation, including business disputes involving contract and tort claims, ERISA, antitrust claims, and intellectual property prosecution and defense. Lawyers in Willkie’s Chicago office have been repeatedly recognized for their first-rate and innovative representation of clients inside and outside the courtroom. Most recently in 2021, Chambers USA recognized several of them, including Mr. Martin, Amanda Amert, and Sara Tonnies Horton, as leading lawyers in trial practice, and general commercial, ERISA, and intellectual property litigation.
Other attorneys based in the office, including Michael Babbitt, Matt Basil, Michael Graham, Brienne Letourneau, LaRue Robinson, and Matt Thomas, have decades of experience in leading tight-knit, nimble trial teams, and representing clients in complex commercial cases through the litigation process, at trial, arbitration, and through appeal. The talented counsel and associates of the office play significant roles on case teams, and share Willkie’s deep commitment to excellent client service.
In entering into the agreement with Longford, Willkie does not intend to represent plaintiffs in class actions or other claims that are not business-to-business types of disputes. “Our new agreement with Longford will provide our clients with an alternative funding model for high-stakes commercial disputes, especially those with outcome determinative trials, for businesses as plaintiff or as defendant.”
With the funding provided by Longford, Willkie will focus on conducting due diligence, bringing, and litigating and trying high value cases on behalf of corporate clients that can aid clients in realizing the full monetary value of their assets. Many of the cases will involve antitrust, insurance cost recovery, business contract, business tort, and/or intellectual property claims on the plaintiffs’ side—though, the alternative funding arrangement provided by Longford may be used for non-contingency and/or some defense-side cases. Examples include:
- Late stage cases with imminent trial dates. The Willkie Chicago trial team has repeatedly and successfully parachuted in to take over complex commercial litigation, involving a variety of different claims, after the pleading phase to get the case ready for discovery and/or trial on a short and oftentimes accelerated schedule. The funding arrangement provides clients with additional flexibility by reducing their financial risk and the opportunity to be represented by a top-tier and nationally-recognized trial team.
- Antitrust cases. Antitrust cases are among the most costly cases for businesses to pursue and defend against—but the potential payoff for business plaintiffs can be substantial. Willkie’s clients may fund antitrust litigation, including the extensive investigation and assessment of such claims, to generate significant revenue and competitive advantage by reducing what is often a high-cost barrier in a model that aligns economic interests.
- Patent and trade secrets cases. Willkie has a successful track record of representing clients across numerous industries in a wide array of intellectual property litigation, including patent, trade secrets and other litigation. In doing so, Willkie develops an in-depth understanding of its clients’ IP portfolios and is not shy to pursue litigation against infringers. Now with Willkie Chicago’s strong IP litigation practice and Longford’s funding, Willkie’s clients are better positioned to reap the full financial and reputational benefits of and build upon their intellectual property portfolio through a potential, alternative funding model, without having to divert important research and development dollars to litigation.
Willkie and Longford are particularly enthusiastic about the opportunity to assist leading universities in enforcing patents. The combination of Willkie’s representation of higher education clients and strong patent litigation and counseling practice with Longford’s experience in providing financial assistance to universities makes us exceptionally well-placed to partner with universities to devise solutions on how best to monetize and grow universities’ IP portfolios, and deter infringement.
- Business-to-business cases. These disputes are often complicated, fact-driven, risky, and can involve a variety of claims, from breach of contract to trade secret misappropriation to fraud. With the arrangement, companies are more easily able to retain top-tier legal representation from Willkie’s Chicago team to pursue these complex, commercial cases.
- False or fraudulent claim cases for insurers. Willkie has deep and multidisciplinary experience representing the insurance industry. The funding arrangement further enhances Willkie’s ability to investigate fraudulent claims made by policyholders, and aggressively pursue policyholders in court to recover misappropriated funds.
- Certain defense-side cases. While alternative fee arrangements are primarily used for plaintiffs-side cases, there may be opportunities for clients to use Longford’s funding for cases in which they are defendants, when a favorable outcome can provide clients with substantial savings and/or open up revenue streams to them.
Willkie is thrilled to increase its offering to and build upon its relationships with existing and potential clients through its agreement with Longford, and excited about the opportunity to try more complex and significant commercial cases. “We have a talented group of trial lawyers with diverse skill sets and believe this is a tremendous opportunity for the Firm to offer corporate and private equity clients a new level of service,” Mr. Martin said.
Willkie’s Chicago office has an active legal practice focused on trials and appeals, major investigations, and board governance counseling, as well as a leading Private Clients practice. Fully integrated with the firm’s 11 other offices, our Chicago team enhances the firm’s service to Midwest and national clients through offering first-chair trial representation. Led by Craig C. Martin and comprised of more than 40 lawyers, the Chicago team is deeply engaged in a number of civic organizations and maintains an active pro bono practice.