September 12, 2022, Chicago, IL –
This month Delta Capital Partners’ Christopher Delise was interviewed in a Lawdragon feature called Legal Funding Spotlight.
To read the article in Lawdragon click here.
Here is an excerpt of the interview:
Often in Big Law, getting admitted to equity partnership is seen as the Holy Grail. Now, all your hard work has paid off and you can enjoy the fruits.
But for Christopher DeLise, getting to that point was only the beginning.
In his early 40s, he left a lucrative and comfortable position as an equity partner at an Am Law 50 firm to be part of the then-nascent industry of litigation finance. After earning his MBA from Boston University, DeLise was a financial analyst for a handful of years before going to law school, and litigation finance offered a chance to merge his talents and help develop an industry that is revolutionizing the worlds of law and finance.
He founded Delta Capital in 2011, which has since grown into a leading international funder with 15 professionals, most of whom joined the firm following outstanding careers in law, finance, investments and/or asset management. They fund large-scale commercial cases, including breach of contract, financing and investment transactions, M&As, securities, construction and mining cases, intellectual property, antitrust, real estate transactions and disputes of contentious trust. They also fund international arbitration cases, enforcement actions and asset recoveries, provide capital facilities to law firms and offer equity and credit lit fin products, for both defendants and plaintiffs.
Headquartered in Chicago, the firm now operates globally, investing throughout the United States, the United Kingdom, Europe, South America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Delta funds cases where the amount in controversy is at least $100M, and its investment is at least $5M.
A big proponent of collaboration in the legal finance industry, DeLise is the Treasurer and one of six Executive Committee members of IFLA (International Legal Finance Association), the industry’s year-old trade association. His background in finance, law and private equity has spurred innovative financial products and structures offered by Delta, including a game-changing product for defense-side litigants and industry-leading capital facilities for law firms.
For the past couple of years, DeLise has been a member of the Lawdragon Global 100 Leaders in Litigation Finance.
Lawdragon: You were an equity partner at an Am Law 50 law firm, at the pinnacle of your legal career as a private equity and financial services lawyer. Why did you decide to move into litigation funding?
Christopher DeLise: I had four large European institutional investor clients that appeared to have been defrauded by an investment fund manager in the United States and in Cayman Islands. They were concerned that we would be chasing after money that ultimately would not be there and therefore, asked if I would do the work on a contingency fee basis, which was not possible. Most big firms did not do that type of work on contingency back in 2011. I had heard from a colleague about litigation finance in London, which was still relatively new so I started to make calls.
I spoke with several funders and secured funding for these four cases and in parallel decided that I wanted to work full-time in the industry because it would allow me to use both my legal and finance background. This was the first thing I saw that was equal parts investment finance, business, and law and therefore I opted to leave private practice and start Delta.
LD: Was it just you at Delta at first?
CD: Yes, those initial four cases were funded by my money and some third-party capital. Not a lot of funders do it that way, but having represented private equity firms, I knew it would be easier to put my own money at risk rather than to go out and ask other people for money. That ethos still shapes how we operate. We are lean, we do not make a big splash or focus on capturing headlines. We focus on hiring the best people and delivering outstanding results for our clients and our investors.
In the beginning, I collaborated with outside counsel and then I started to hire people when we started to have some success. It was the beginning of an industry that I thought would really take off. There are few chances in life to be part of something like that and so I took the risk and it has paid off.
LD: So, you saw the opportunity and took it. What gave you the confidence or faith that it was going to work?
CD: To be fair, I did not know if it was going to work or not. It was a calculated risk but I recognized that the practice of law, especially in the private equity and transactional world, was becoming more commoditized. In a place like Chicago, even within the top law firms and lawyers, it is a crowded field, people were competing increasingly on price. Yet these big firms were and still are charging hourly for their services, which never made any sense to me. I like the law intellectually, it is fascinating, but the excitement wears off in a big firm as you climb the ranks. You start practicing less and managing other lawyers and clients more. I had achieved a lot in my legal career and I was always interested in finance, so it was a chance to bring all those skillsets together in a new fast-paced, nascent industry that I thought had tremendous potential.
I still get the best of the legal world now. I see innovative issues every week. Dozens of new cases come to us from all over the world. I can be looking at a case that is in a South American country one minute and review a case in Kazakhstan the next minute, I can be looking at the most complicated mass torts cases in the United States and new group actions in the United Kingdom an hour later. It is never boring.
Some of my law partners thought I was crazy. That is what differentiates an entrepreneurial mind from the rest – you look at the risk and see opportunity rather than anxiety. I would sit with my private equity clients who were making investments, seeing the risk and the rewards and how exciting that was, and I felt like I was on the sidelines. I thought, I want to take that risk. I want to make the business decisions and investment decisions. I wanted in on the action and was willing to work extremely hard, put my own money to work, and take the risk of failing…
To continue reading the article in Lawdragon click here.