The burgeoning list of former Big Law partners who now work at litigation funding shops has grown by two more names.
VGL Capital LLC, a Marina del Ray, California-based litigation funder started in 2015 by former Dentons and Mayer Brown partner Robert Gilbert, announced on Monday its hire of an ex-Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher partner and a former in-house litigation chief at Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc. The additions bring the team at VGL Capital, an abbreviation for VersusGoliath Litigation Finance, to four former Big Law partners with decades of experience.
Barry Mandel (pictured right), a retired partner at Foley & Lardner, where he headed the firm’s securities enforcement and litigation practice, is now a member of the executive committee at VGL Capital. Mandel joined Foley & Lardner in May 2009 after serving as vice president and general counsel for global litigation at Merrill Lynch, which was absorbed earlier that year into fellow financial services giant Bank of America.
Making a similar move to VGL Capital is Denis Salmon, a founder and chair of the litigation group at now-defunct Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison who went on to co-chair the intellectual property group at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, where he also once led that firm’s office in Palo Alto, California.
Gilbert, chairman and CEO at VGL Capital, said the recruitment of Salmon and Mandel is in line with a strategy he said makes his outfit different than other litigation funders: It is staffed by lawyers who spent more than 30 years at a major law firm and who were primarily first-chair trial lawyers.
Gilbert said he was encouraged to launch VGL Capital two years ago when he “analyzed the business” of litigation funders and came to the conclusion that there were not enough first-chair trial lawyers making decisions on what cases to invest in. Gilbert said the level of experience at trial on his staff allows them to independently make decisions faster than other funders.
“We’re all senior people with elite legal or financial experience, and we’re empowered to make decisions,” Gilbert said.
To be sure, other litigation funders have for nearly a decade been hiring lawyers from large law firms to serve in roles similar to that now held by Mandel and Salmon, which is to analyze cases and make investment decisions.
Burford Capital LLC has hired lawyers from at least 25 different 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.
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