Of all the legal roles served by an entrepreneurial spirit, litigation finance and insurance has to be near the top. For Brandon Deme, combining that spirit with a lot of hard work and a little bit of luck has paid off handsomely for his career and legal teams in need of critical assistance as they pursue their claims, often against bigger adversaries. The 29-year-old co-founder of London-based Factor Risk Management is one of the youngest owners of a legal insurance brokerage in Europe. A diehard “Suits” fan, Deme never became a lawyer himself but instead has thrived on leveling the playing field in complex disputes from outside the courtroom.
Lawdragon: Can you describe for our readers the types of services you and Factor Risk provide?
Brandon Deme: As a broker, we provide litigation funding and After-The-Event insurance solutions to lawyers and their clients. Ultimately our aim is to mitigate the cost exposure risk for our clients and assist when we can in sourcing finance, allowing them access to justice.
LD: How did you first become interested in the finance and insurance side of the law?
BD: It kind of found me. As a university graduate I applied for a number of roles and insurance broking (originally professional indemnity) is what stuck. I was fortunate to join a small firm that was broking ATE insurance and funding whilst the industry was still in its infancy. Over time and as the industry grew, I really enjoyed it and the rest is history.
LD: What do you enjoy about it?
BD: Firstly being able to deliver! I enjoy having a task, a goal and getting it done. Deal making and bringing credible solutions to my clients’ problems is very satisfying to me. To know that I played a small role in helping people get justice or ultimately win their cases makes me happy. With this being a very niche market, professionally I am able to learn a lot in two sectors that I find fascinating. With each case and all of the counsel opinions and case law we get to read, I learn about the law. With the growing litigation funding industry, I get also to learn more about the finance side by working day-to-day with individuals far more intelligent than me.
LD: Are there any trends you are seeing in litigation finance these days?
BD: Definitely, the utilization of litigation funding in cases. More and more law firms and clients are using this as a means to pursue cases which they may not have been able to otherwise. Whilst litigation funding does have its inefficiencies and isn't suitable for every case, advising on funding terms, structuring deals and catering for the demand for it keeps us at Factor very busy.
LD: Please discuss your career path. Did you ever work as a lawyer?
BD: Once upon a time a long time ago, I wanted to be a lawyer. Maybe I was heavily influenced by watching seasons upon seasons of “Suits” and other law shows but during my A levels studying law I realized it was way more reading than the glamour of these shows highlighted. I went on to study business management and marketing at university instead with the goal of having my own business one day. My first professional job just so happened to be in this sector so I guess I'm lucky to a certain degree to be able to do something within the legal sphere even if I am not the Harvey Specter in the courtroom. Can't have it all I guess.
LD: Do you have another graduate degree?
As long as you strive to be great at whatever you are doing, opportunities will present themselves and you just have to follow your instinct.
BD: Whilst working full-time I obtained a diploma from The Chartered Insurance Institute. I thought if I'm going to be broking insurance, I should really know a little about it, right? Jokes aside this was very useful for me to not only understand insurance and its many nuances but also to be able to properly advise my clients and even use this knowledge to get better terms for them. Once I completed that in 2018 I also went to Warwick University to study for my MBA, which I felt would be useful in enhancing my knowledge to run an organization. I graduated in 2020.
LD: What advice do you have now for students or young professionals who wish to have a similar type of career?
BD: I think the key is perseverance. There are going to be roadblocks along the way, but if you have a goal, the ability to adapt and strong desire, I genuinely believe you will reach your goal. These things always sound so cliche but for me it’s true. Very few people at any age let alone younger have it all figured out, and you don't have to. As long as you strive to be great at whatever you are doing, opportunities will present themselves and you just have to follow your instinct. Anyone who knows me knows that I like to keep things simple, I think sometimes we all over complicate things. In terms of following a similar career path, for me it was: One, work to get to the highest role within my company; and two, transition that into some type of ownership.
LD: Can you discuss some early mentors for you in the field?
BD: I've been in the industry for 10 years now. I think my biggest early mentor would easily be my partner and co-founder Tom Davey, who earlier was my boss at another firm. As he would say, he “polished a diamond up a little,” and that is very true. He gave me the technical knowledge I was lacking at the time. Being an industry veteran who has really seen it all, he helped me avoid a lot of mistakes a young ambitious kid would make. I certainly wouldn't be where I am, as fast, without him. I remember he would take me to his meetings with major law firms, and I know they were sitting there like “Who is this kid?” or “He must be the note taker.” But he would ask me for my input and questions in the meetings to make sure I was switched on and engaged and this helped me gain respect within the industry and build relationships. Outside of this there are a number of known people in the industry whom I quietly observe, and they probably don't know they mentor me, but they do. I've always been a fast learner, so wherever I can get knowledge I take the opportunity.
LD: Is there a matter or client in your career that stands out as a “favorite” or one that is more memorable for certain reasons?
BD: Obviously I love all my clients, so it’s hard to single one out in particular. I guess now that she has retired, I can mention Boz Michalowska who gave me an opportunity on my first big case, which turned out to be a great success. I owe a lot to her for giving me that opportunity, she is amazing! There are also people within the industry who are not necessarily clients who have helped me without knowing and I highly respect. For example, Susan Dunn, Adrian Chopin, Stephen Bolster and Rob Rothkopf. These are all people who I work with or in some cases compete with. Since I was a tadpole in the industry, they always had time for me, took meetings and probably unknowingly helped me understand the litigation funding and insurance market more through our discussions. I remember running into Adrian's office unannounced trying to convince him to do a case as a hungry 23-year-old and he actually didn't kick me out! Calling Rob maybe 10 times in a day to try to close out a matter. From an entrepreneurial standpoint watching how Susan grew Harbour Litigation Funding to what it is, is incredible and also Stephen Bolster starting his own Insurance MGA really inspired me and he in particular has believed and supported me and the business from the beginning. I guess the moral of the story is I like people who tolerate me!
The additional pressure of having your own firm works well for me and my partners as it brings the best out of us. There are no excuses, and there is no ceiling for our success.
LD: What characteristics does it take to thrive in your area?
BD: Drive and resiliency! That's it. Everything else can be learned, but you have to be driven and resilient.
LD: Where do you see innovation fitting into your area of the legal industry?
BD: I think in any industry innovation is important. I hate being stagnant. As brokers we are uniquely placed to see how both the insurance and funding side works in aiding clients and law firms. We are constantly trying to develop new products utilizing one or both of these to deal with the inefficiencies in the market. Our ultimate goal is to provide quality solutions to our clients, and if we see an issue we try to solve it. Mitigating our client’s risk and helping them achieve affordable access to justice is our main aim.
LD: Why did you decide to start your own firm?
BD: As I said before, I've always had the entrepreneur bug and I have always wanted to be in control of my destiny. I'm sounding like a “Star Wars” movie now, but honestly this is it. I wanted to be able to make decisions hopefully more right than wrong that could have an impact or influence, and that could bring change. I think the additional pressure of having your own firm works well for me and my partners as it brings the best out of us. There are no excuses, and there is no ceiling for our success. Either we win or we fail and that is what drives me. Again, I'm a simple guy.
LD: What are some current challenges in your leadership role?
BD: One of the major challenges is hiring people. Coming to the realization that we as management cannot do everything and be everywhere is really apparent as the business grows. I was reading a book the other day and it said one of the most important decisions a business owner has to make is who to hire and when to hire. Over the coming months, we will be bringing more people into our business but like with anything you want to make the right decisions.
LD: What do you do for fun when you’re outside the office?
BD: I am a keen traveler, I love to visit new places, try new food and learn about other cultures. I attempt very badly to learn new languages; my goal is to be fluent in 5 ultimately. I am an avid sports fan but my teams haven't been doing so good lately so they will remain nameless.