My career story: “I went from Clifford Chance to litigation funding”
Erika Levin worked in private practice for a variety of firms, including Clifford Chance in New York. She is now senior vice president and general counsel at litigation funder and insurance broker TheJudge.
What’s your background? How did you first start out in law?
I am dual citizen of the US and Brazil so I was always travelling internationally and wanted to do something international in the world of law. I started out in practice at a commercial litigation boutique called Saiber LLC before I joined Clifford Chance’s New York office shortly afterwards.
How did that come about?
I was in just in town and I met with David Lindsay who was the head of litigation at CC. He was looking for someone with Portuguese-language capability and exposure to international arbitration. Obviously those types of opportunity come along quite rarely and I felt very privileged to work there. It was an incredible experience.
I was quite junior, but because I had started in a commercial litigation boutique by the time I joined CC I had quite a lot of experience compared to other people of my level and was given a lot of autonomy.
What was your career goal at that stage?
At that time, my goal had been to join a magic circle firm doing international arbitration and that ambition was fulfilled by joining Clifford Chance. The one you will find as a junior lawyer is that your goals change as you move to different levels.
I started a family, and while at Clifford Chances I was also teaching at Rutgers School of Law. So I was already teaching and practising, and once I started a family I realised I needed to balance my time a little more.
So I took the opportunity to go to a spin-off of Boies Schiller in New Jersey, Stone Magnanini. It was an incredible opportunity to do high-level litigation work, and also a perfect step for me to work part time for a while and a way to balance family and a career.
How did you find working part-time?
It’s really important for firms to be supportive of parents. I found the opportunity to work part-time was perfect for me – I was able to be involved and get back in full-time later on. I think they key is flexibility and autonomy. As a lawyer serving your clients, you need to be available, but you can be available in different ways.
So you went to Stone Magnanini – how did you end up in the litigation funding space?
Working for this boutique, which focused on various commercial litigation matters, was the first time I had been introduced to the funding side of things. I was working both on the defence side and the claimant side, which was less common at Clifford Chance, and I started to understand really the business side of the law. Doing claimant work, funding became very important all of a sudden. I also worked on IP matters, and when you’re working for a patent holder suing a much larger company funding you see how becomes pivotal.
So I started to see that the market was changing and how important it is to have funding options: that’s not something you learn in law school. I’ve always been very business oriented and I was always drawn to the commercial side of things.
What brought you to TheJudge?
I had done a lot of interesting work in my career and I got to a point where I was looking for that next challenge. One option was to serve as an arbitrator, but I was also looking to the commercial or the business side of law.
Opportunities sometimes just pop up – a conversation started among friends and TheJudge was a natural fit.
It’s a specialist broking company operates in litigation finance and insurance. It’s a UK company that had been in the business nearly 16 years and was now opening a New York office. I have been overseeing the expansion into the Americas. The thing that’s interesting is that everything is really global – the market has changed so much. As a team we are coordinating our efforts on a global scale.
With that comes the role of general counsel, making sure things are done the way they should be and evaluating cases as they come in, but also operating as an extension of clients’ legal teams, understanding what the client’s goals are and serving them in the best way possible.
What I really find this exciting it that it’s a new spin on something I’ve been doing for a long time. There is not shortage of litigation and it’s a growing market.