Wendie Childress, portfolio counsel in Houston for Validity Finance. Wendie Childress, portfolio counsel in Houston for Validity Finance.

As it looks to add firepower across its platform, litigation funder Validity Finance has expanded its Houston presence, bringing on a trial lawyer from a local litigation boutique.

Wendie Childress was senior counsel at litigation boutique Yetter Coleman, where she practiced for 17 years. She joined Validity on April 1 to help manage the company’s portfolio in Texas and the Southwest, with a focus on due diligence and matter assessment.

“We see Houston, as we’ve always said, as a fantastic trial market,” said Ralph Sutton, Validity founder and chief executive officer. “It’s filled with superb trial lawyers who are sometimes on the defense side, sometimes on the plaintiff’s side. It’s really a city that has the greatest of the Texas risk-taking tradition, wildcatting, [and] other forms of growth and entrepreneurship.”

Sutton said Validity may be expanding further. He may hire another team member in New York, where the firm added portfolio counsel William Marra earlier this year. Sutton said he is also eyeing a West Coast office, but probably not for another year.

At Yetter Coleman, Childress did complex commercial litigation and arbitration for companies in the energy, technology, health care and financial services industries. For the last few years, she said, she had been watching the growth of litigation finance throughout the legal industry.

So she was listening closely when Sutton launched Validity last June with offices in Houston, New York and Chicago, and she liked what he had to say.

“I was really intrigued by his amazing track record as a pioneer in the industry [who was] really taking a fresh approach … including trying to streamline the process,” Childress said.

Sutton is the former leader of IMF Bentham Ltd.’s U.S. operations.

Childress said her trial skills will serve her well at Validity, but in a different way than in private practice.

“[After] well over a decade analyzing commercial cases, I think I can quickly discern the merits of the case and whether it’s something that I think we can provide assistance,” Childress said.

“I grew up in Houston and I’ve been a part of this legal community for such a long time. I certainly think I have contacts and friends in the legal industry and beyond,” she added.

Childress said her practice involved general commercial litigation, business torts, contract disputes, misappropriation of trade secrets and a small amount of employment work. She worked on both sides of the docket.

Her clients at Yetter Coleman included Houston Methodist, Freeport LNG and GE Oil and Gas. Among major matters, she led a team that successfully defended GE in a $52 million breach of warranty and fraud suit.

Childress joins investment manager and Houston office head Laina Miller. Childress said she and Miller have a mutual friend, and after they started talking about the business, Childress became interested in the career shift.

Miller said in a press release that Childress brings high-stakes litigation experience and expertise in policy and regulatory matters to Validity. Before joining Yetter Coleman, Childress was general counsel to the Texas Senate Committee on Business and Commerce.

“Wendie has achieved significant stature in South Texas thanks to her winning track record in commercial disputes on behalf of a range of prominent clients,” Miller said.

Regarding Childress’ departure, Yetter Coleman name partner Paul Yetter said in an email, “Wendie is a terrific litigator, who is destined for success ahead. Our friends at Validity are getting a real gem.”

According to Validity, the company has reviewed more than 250 case opportunities since the firm launched in June 2018, including opportunities presented by 80 percent of Am Law 100 firms. The firm said in the press release it has invested in “several major matters” originating in Texas, including litigation in the oil and gas sector.

Sutton said that within the first year of its operation, Validity will have invested more than $50 million in litigation. He declined to identify clients. At its launch, Validity was backed by up to $250 million, primarily from private equity firm TowerBrook Capital Partners.

Childress said that while she was in private practice, none of her matters involved litigation funders. However, Sutton said, Yetter Coleman is counsel on a matter Validity is funding.

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