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Transactional

Growing legal finance firm Delta lures another Big Law alum

5 minute read

REUTERS/Mike Blake

Reuters) - Delta Capital Partners Management LLC, a private equity firm focusing on litigation and legal finance, has tapped DLA Piper partner Jonathan Sablone as the newest member of its team.

Sablone, who joined DLA Piper in October 2019 after an almost 25-year run at Nixon Peabody, stepped into his new role this week at Delta as managing director and global director of originations.

It's not a move he necessarily envisioned. "I expected to continue practicing at a big law firm for another 20 years," Sablone said.

But a few things changed that. "First of all, the litigation financing world has exploded over the last number of years," he said. Sablone said he has been involved in the litigation finance arena in different ways for more than 10 years, including representing Delta since its founding and working with other funders.

One of the big changes over the past five years, he said, has been the growing attraction of litigation financing to institutional investors, partly because the returns aren't correlated to the market.

"I see an industry that has kind of gotten past its infancy, has worked through some of the problems and quirks and is truly ready to take off, as a global investment vehicle for institutional investors, banks, hedge funds, you name it," Sablone said.

The market for third-party legal financing has matured in general. In one signal of its growth, several big commercial litigation finance firms joined together in September 2020 to create the Washington, D.C.-based International Legal Finance Association.

Chicago-based Delta, which has a global presence, offers equity and credit solutions to companies, law firms and individuals. There are also several offerings listed on its website as "coming soon," such as defense solutions.

Sablone's hire follows a series of moves for Delta this year, including the launch of its credit-based finance business in April and several new hires and promotions since January. One of those hires was former Clifford Chance leader Peter Cornell as Delta's president.

Delta, like many legal finance firms, boasts several other Big Law veterans in its ranks. Martin Lueck, its chief operating officer, joined last year after retiring as chairman of Robins Kaplan. Delta's managing principal and chief executive is Christopher DeLise, who prior to founding the firm was an equity partner at K&L Gates and practiced at Husch Blackwell and DLA Piper.

The Delta team also includes a former Kirkland & Ellis partner as underwriting director, and its general counsel previously practiced at K&L Gates.

At DLA Piper, Sablone founded and co-chaired the firm's private fund dispute group. He created and led the same practice at Nixon Peabody, where he also served as co-chair of the complex commercial disputes group, Delta said in its Monday announcement. A DLA Piper representative didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on Sablone's departure.

Sablone said his legal skills and years of handling cases will still come into play in his role overseeing deal originations, in which he will run the team that finds opportunities to deploy capital.

He's also Delta's first hire in Boston, where he expects the firm to grow and sees opportunity to tap into the investor market. Boston also offers good connections with the London market and the rest of Europe, he said.

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