Russell Genet
Russell Genet (Kathy Tarantola)

In a career move that litigation funders claim is increasingly popular among Big Law lawyers, a top partner at Nixon Peabody in Chicago has joined the ranks of financier Longford Capital Management LP.

Russell Genet joined the Windy City-based litigation funder as a director from his position as national leader of Nixon Peabody’s intellectual property litigation practice, Longford Capital announced Wednesday. Genet will help Longford Capital, formed in 2013 by a group that includes a pair of former Neal, Gerber & Eisenberg partners, select IP cases to invest in and monitor ongoing cases.

William Farrell Jr., a co-founder and managing director of Longford Capital, said that Genet’s hire bolsters its IP capabilities, which are one of three types of suits his firm considers. The others are business disputes and antitrust cases.

“We’re continuing to add to our team and add depth and experience in the three areas of law we consider,” said Farrell, a former Neal Gerber partner who also serves as Longford Capital’s general counsel.

While it is rare for an equity partner to decamp for a litigation finance shop, the growing industry has become a common employer of Big Law alums, who are typically midlevel associates or non-equity partners. Burford Capital LLC, which in December agreed to pay $160 million to buy its largest competitor, Chicago-based Gerchen Keller Capital LLC, has hired lawyers away from at least 25 Am Law 100 firms, including market leaders like Cravath, Swaine & Moore, Debevoise & Plimpton, Jones Day, Kirkland & Ellis, Latham & Watkins, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom and Sullivan & Cromwell.

Bentham IMF Ltd., among the top players in the niche area of litigation finance, has also recruited lawyers from top-tier firms such as Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, the newly rebranded Boies Schiller Flexner and Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher.

Travis Lenkner, a co-founder of Gerchen Keller and now a director at Burford, said Big Law lawyers looking for a career move are intrigued by litigation finance because it gives them the opportunity to continuously analyze complex cases, rather than working in the weeds on any particular piece of litigation. And while the compensation is not up to the levels of an equity partner at the nation’s largest firms, it is enough to attract talented mid-career lawyers, Lenkner said.

“The appeal is daily interaction with some of the most complex litigation matters and issues that one could ever find,” added Lenkner, who once worked at Gibson Dunn. “As well as with the business and strategic challenges that accompany those cases.”

Longford Capital’s addition of Genet, who helped Nixon Peabody start its Chicago office a decade ago, may also help the firm raise money from investors. Adding a high-profile lawyer with 20-plus years of experience litigating IP cases may help assure current and potential investors that a litigation financier will pick winning, profitable cases.

According to regulatory filings, Longford Capital raised a $56.5 million fund in 2014. That is the lone fund listed for Longford Capital by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Farrell said that Longford now has approximately $200 million in assets under management. (Gerchen Keller, by comparison, had raised more than $1.4 billion at the time it was acquired by Burford.)

Genet is not Longford’s first splashy addition to its leadership. The firm made headlines in 2014 when it hired Bill Strong, a former member of Morgan Stanley’s global management committee and co-CEO for the financial services giant’s Asia Pacific region. Last fall Longford Capital announced it would seek to expand its presence in San Francisco.