Photo by Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg
Photo by Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Litigation Financier (Backed by Peter Thiel) for the Little Guy

Ever since Peter Thiel bankrolled the lawsuit that forced Nick Denton to sell Gawker Media, it seems some litigation financiers are on the defensive.

That also seems to be the case for Thiel Fellow Eva Shang, who was among 29 young people awarded with $100,000 each to help finance their various forms of entrepreneurship.

Here’s the thing: Shang’s idea of entrepreneurship is starting a litigation finance firm of her own: Legalist. And she’d like it to be known for improving access to justice. [The Thiel Foundation provides financing and fellowships to support young people who drop out of school to “build new things,” as well as science labs and social sciences research, according to its website.]

“I have never met Peter Thiel,” were some of her first words in an interview on Friday, after shooting off FAQs she’s fielded ever since Legalist has caught the public eye.

Shang and fellow Harvard undergraduate Christian Haigh have generated some buzz after developing an algorithm over the past eight months that examines a case and the probability of victory. The pair launched their start-up last month (staffed happily with just Shang and Haigh).

Shang said that her main goal in launching a litigation finance firm is providing financial backing to people and small businesses who can’t afford to bring litigation.

“We don’t look at IP or patent trolls,” Shang said.

“Some examples are that we take on small businesses with existing or meritorious lawsuits. A bakery, or paper company, or a small tech shop. If they have a breach of contract case, for example, the larger company tries to drag their claims out as long as possible in hopes the smaller company will drop the case altogether.”

The business was earlier profiled by Business Insider, which noted that most cases will require between $50,000 and $500,000 from Legalist, and the company will negotiate for up to 50% of the settlement.

Shang told Big Law Business that Legalist has so far taken on a single case, but has a goal for bringing on 10 more in the next month.

“Honestly, I just feel bad because there are so many more that have meritorious cases, but we have such limited resources at this point,” said Shang. “The reason they can’t go to other litigation finance companies is that their vetting process is too long and their minimum case sizes are $2 million.”

So, you’re against Big Law, then?

“I wouldn’t position this as being against Big Law lawyers… They can represent good in the world.”

Before starting Legalist, Shang co-founded Harvard University’s first university-wide TEDx event, and was the founder and executive director of Student Alliance for Prison Reform — a network of students involved in prison education and reform, according to her LinkedIn.

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