Validity Finance funds a more diverse future with scholarships

Think big.

This is the overriding lesson that participants of the Validity Finance Equal Access Scholarship learned from the summer program designed for law students from backgrounds underrepresented in the field today.

Introduced in 2019, the paid scholarship chose two students that year, reduced to just one in 2020 as the Covid-19 pandemic shut down large swaths of the US economy and admitted two again in 2021. Each worked out of Validity’s New York office, earning $1,000 a week and had the opportunity to spend half of the 10-week program with a pro bono public service organization.

One of the only scholarships offered by a funder to first-year law students, Validity’s program teaches participants how the growing litigation funding industry is helping level the playing field in commercial litigation while providing real-world experience interacting with law firms and helping review cases. – funding requests.

The experience “showed me not only everything you can do as a litigator, but also everything you can do to improve the way legal services are delivered,” says Shao-Jia Chang, Fellow 2021.

A Harvard law student, Chang grew up in a rural northern California town and worked as an assistant to U.S. Representative Mike Thompson after earning her bachelor’s degree in psychology and legal studies from the University of California, Berkeley.

“Legal careers are long,” adds 2020 Scholar Amber Stewart, “and the Equal Opportunity Fellowship program taught me to think broadly about my legal career. There are myriad forms a legal career can take, and I shouldn’t limit myself when thinking about my future.

Validity CEO Ralph Sutton said the fellowship serves the firm’s core mission of expanding access to civil courts while simultaneously helping to address inequality in a profession whose upper echelons are still male-dominated. whites. The 2020 pandemic shutdown and social justice protests following the death of a black man in Minneapolis police custody this spring highlighted “an increased need for young lawyers interested in expanding access to the civil justice system” , he said.

According to data collected by the Move the Needle Fund, a collaboration between law firms and the Diversity Lab to promote inclusion in the field, the promotions of law school graduates are made up of approximately 50% women, 33% racial and ethnic minorities and 6% LGBTQ+. students, but the equity partnership ranks among large law firms made up of just 21% women, 9% racial and ethnic minorities, and 2% LGBTQ+ people.

“After spending a summer at Validity, I have a better understanding of what lawyers can do to improve the efficiency and fairness of the legal system and how to start asking these questions even as law students” , says Chang.

Here are the profiles of Chang and two other Validity program participants. Keep reading to learn more about what they’re doing with what they’ve learned.

Marlon Becerra

Marlon Becerra

Education: Bachelor of Arts, Hampshire College; Juris Doctor Candidate, Harvard Law.

Residence: Queens, New York

How did you become interested in litigation funding?

As a first generation law student, I was unfamiliar with the litigation funding industry. I first heard about litigation funding when I saw the Validity Finance Equal Opportunity Scholarship application on my school’s Career Services website. I was extremely interested in Validity’s mission to help increase access to justice by supporting valid legal claims.

How has the Equal Access Scholarship influenced your career goals?

The Equal Access Fellowship gave me the opportunity to see different ways to promote better access to justice. I learned how litigation funding can allow plaintiffs who lack resources to pursue their well-founded claims. I’ve also heard of innovative efforts in Utah and Arizona to allow lawyers to share their fees with non-lawyers in hopes of reducing some of the costs of accessing legal services. As part of the fellowship, I volunteered with the Strategic Litigation Department of the Innocence Project; there I had the opportunity to help influence their litigation efforts to prevent wrongful convictions. As I continue my legal career, I will always look for creative ways to help more people access justice through our legal processes.

How has the Fellowship changed your perception of the litigation funding industry and the U.S. legal system as a whole?

At first, I was skeptical of the industry model and Validity’s assertion of how industry helps increase access to justice. Then I got to see firsthand how the Validity team worked closely together to support their clients, and heard clients attest to how the funding helped them achieve fairer settlements, to better protect their intellectual property or to prepare a stronger case. for test. In a legal system where plaintiffs are often under-resourced and lawsuits are so expensive, litigation funding offers a unique solution to give small businesses the opportunity to assert their rights.

What was your most unexpected experience?

While the first year of law school teaches us the basic doctrinal principles of law, little time is given to the practical considerations that real clients constantly weigh. In addition to the strength of their lawsuit, clients should consider other aspects of a lawsuit such as the length of litigation, the costs of expert witnesses, the location of the trial and the public perception of the litigation. Understanding these factors is key to advising clients on the best course of action to achieve the desired outcome.

Amber Stewart
Amber Stewart

Amber Stewart

Education: Bachelor of Arts, Princeton University; Juris Doctor Candidate, University of Chicago Law

City:Chicago

How did you become interested in litigation funding?

I’m a candidate for the Doctoroff Business Leadership program at my law school, and the directors of the program invited Katherine Wolanyck of Burford Capital to dinner. Hearing Ms. Wolanyck describe her work in litigation funding piqued my interest. When I saw Validity Finance’s online job posting for the Equal Access Fellowship and read about the firm’s work in litigation funding and its commitment to improving access to justice, I immediately applied!

How has the Equal Access Scholarship influenced your career goals?

The program had a huge influence. Working at Validity exposed me to a new sector of the legal industry that very few law students experience before leaving law school. Programs like Validity’s Equal Access Fellowship are slowly changing that, and I hope more litigation funding firms follow suit. Particularly at Validity, I can’t say enough about the amazing mentorship and career advice I received from the whole team. Their advice was instrumental in my decision to apply for clerkships, and I will be a clerk next fall. Additionally, working with the team has helped me hone my research and writing skills and my ability to think like a transactional lawyer.

What is your dream job right now and how could litigation funding play a part in it?

My dream job is one where I am continually challenged as a lawyer and a thinker, and litigation funding certainly does that. It combines legal research and writing with business analysis in an interesting and sometimes complex way. Legal careers are long, and the Equal Opportunity Fellowship program taught me to think broadly about my legal career.

How has the Fellowship changed your perception of the litigation funding industry and the U.S. legal system as a whole? The Equal Access Fellowship gave me a better understanding of how litigation funding is becoming increasingly popular in the domestic and international legal industries. I also started to think about how litigation funding can play a role in addressing access to justice in the US legal system.

What was your most unexpected experience? There are myriad forms a legal career can take, and I shouldn’t limit myself when thinking about my future.

Shao Jia Chang
Shao Jia Chang

Shao Jia Chang

Education: BA in Legal Studies and Psychology, University of California at Berkeley; Juris Doctor Candidate, Harvard Law.

Hometown: Lakeport, California.

How did you become interested in litigation funding?

After a year of doctrinal classes taught over Zoom, I wanted a summer internship that explored the practice of law and challenged the assumptions of the legal profession. I was incredibly lucky to come across Validity on our career services page as I was unfamiliar with litigation funding. I was drawn to its talented people and its mission to improve access to justice. Just by going through the interview process, I knew I would learn a lot from a summer with Validity and its attorneys.

How has the Equal Access Scholarship influenced your career goals?

By early summer, I knew I was interested in pursuing lawsuits after law school. The Equal Access Fellowship has shown me not only all that you can do as a litigator, but also all that you can do to improve the delivery of legal services. Similar to Validity, I know that in my career I want to continue to challenge the status quo and embed fairness in everything I do.

What is your dream job right now and how could litigation funding play a part in it?

If not in litigation funding, in my work I want to tackle tough legal issues and improve access to justice.

How has the Fellowship changed your perception of the litigation funding industry and the U.S. legal system as a whole?

After the scholarship, I have a deep understanding of different litigation funding models and their integration into the legal system – which is unique among law students. Spending a summer at Validity gave me a better understanding of what lawyers can do to improve the efficiency and fairness of the legal system and how to start asking these questions even as law students.

What was your most unexpected experience?

Litigation funding is what you make it. All team members have a vision of what they want to do with litigation funding – something they are most passionate about or an impact they want to have – and the team, together, decides on priorities to undertake. It’s not really a surprise, but I was impressed with how even the fellow fellow and I were integrated and involved from day one.