California Bar Issues Formal Opinion on Third-Party Litigation Funding

On October 1, 2020 the California Bar Association published Formal Opinion NO. 2020-204 on Third-Party Litigation Funding.

The bar’s opinion states that attorney and consumer must be fully informed as to the terms and conditions of the contract. Additionally, the lawyer must ensure competence in advising on any litigation funding agreement, and is obligated to obtain a client’s permission before discussing any confidential information with the funding company.

During the comment period of this opinion, the Alliance For Responsible Consumer Legal Funding (ARC) weighed in on the issue by submitting a letter to the review committee. In the letter ARC stated: “The Proposed Formal Opinion properly establishes that a lawyer is under an ethical obligation to decline to represent a client in legal funding negotiations if the lawyer does not have sufficient knowledge and expertise to help the client avoid being exploited in the legal funding relationship.”

In addition, it was stated that this opinion will give consumers additional confidence in the industry: ”By requiring adequate representation in the legal funding negotiation, bad actors will be less likely to survive. As those bad actors are driven out, consumer confidence in legal funding services will rise and the resulting increase in demand for legal funding services will draw even more reputable funders into the market. This, in turn, will create stronger incentives for funders to cater to the price and quality preferences of individual plaintiffs.”

The California Bar Association and the American Bar Association have each released a recent opinion on Litigation Funding. In both opinions, the bars acknowledge a need for the product, and propose best practices for how consumers and attorneys should work with companies that offer financial assistance to consumers in their time of need.

ARC and its member companies continue to ensure that both consumers and their attorneys are fully-informed on the terms and conditions of the contract, and that the only parties that have a say in the prosecution of the case are consumers and their attorneys. These are enforced in the most recent set of Best Practices that ARC and its companies have released.

ARC is very pleased the California Bar Association, the largest State Bar Association in the United States with over 242,000 members, has taken this position on the issue and put forward these important guidelines.