Most small businesses don’t want to risk it
Lawsuits are expensive. In fact, so expensive, that many small businesses would rather avoid them, sacrificing justice they deserve rather than risk draining their bank accounts. After all, the possibility of walking out of the courtroom with nothing but a hefty bill is frightening. Court cases are a chancy gamble. Enter Legalist.
Let Legalist roll the dice
Eva Shang, cofounder of a new startup called Legalist, has an algorithm that she thinks can determine the odds of that gamble.
Legalist’s algorithm has analyzed 10 million court cases, and uses that information to make a strong estimate of the likely outcomes of court cases.
The tech startup uses this information to decide whether or not to fund court cases. It’s called third-party litigation funding. The practice has recently come into the spotlight after it was revealed that Peter Thiel, Silicon Valley billionaire and PayPal founder, was secretly bankrolling Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against the website Gawker.
Shang, who is a Thiel Fellow and received a $100,000 investment from Thiel’s foundation, nonetheless wants to shy away from the stereotype of an ambulance chaser. While it is speculated that Thiel was moved to fund Hogan’s lawsuit by a personal vendetta against Gawker, who outed Thiel as gay in 2007, Shang insists that Legalist will be strictly business.
They foot the bill
So far, they are focusing on business tort cases. They aren’t pursuing personal injury claims. In fact, they aren’t pursuing new cases at all, but instead, are letting businesses already embroiled in lawsuits to come to them.
Legalist expects to invest between $50,000 and $500,000 in court cases with a potential claim of $1 million or more, claiming up to 50 percent of the settlement. These are non-recourse investments, meaning that if the lawsuit is lost, Legalist has to swallow the bill.
Waiting to rake in the moolah
These are high-stakes bets, and right now Shang and her cofounder are using personal assets to fund the company. However, they are confident that their “data-backed” algorithm can accurately predict winning court cases, so they expect to eventually rake in large returns.
Besides paying for legal fees, funds from Legalist can also be used for operational costs to keep businesses afloat while they’re in court. For small businesses, this could be a great way to level the playing field, making litigation possible despite its enormous costs, with far less risk to your company.