REVISION: A Legal Ethics Perspective on Alternative Litigation Financing

By W. Bradley Wendel

One of the foundational principles of legal ethics is that the lawyer owes an obligation of undivided loyalty to the client, and no other interests or relationships can be permitted to interfere with the lawyer’s exercise of independent professional judgment on behalf of the client. The strongest non-consequentialist doctrinal objection to third-party litigation funding is that it may compromise the lawyer’s independence. Yet this argument cannot be made in too strong a form, because lawyers are already permitted to enter into relationships or have interests that present a prima facie risk to the lawyer’s independence. In the United States, two such situations are the representation of plaintiffs in contingent-fee financed litigation and the representation of insured defendants by lawyers compensated, and substantially controlled, by liability insurers. Both of these situations present conflicts of interest that are mitigated for the most part not by formal rules of professional ...

W. Bradley Wendel Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Professor of Law
Photo of W. Wendel

Contact Information

Cornell Law School
108 Myron Taylor Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853-4901

Phone: (607) 255-9719
Fax: (607) 255-7193


Kara Conklin
Cornell Law School
249 Hughes Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853-4901

Professional Biography

Brad Wendel joined the Cornell faculty in 2004, after teaching at Washington and Lee Law School from 1999-2004. Before entering graduate school and law teaching, he was a product liability litigator at Bogle & Gates in Seattle and a law clerk for Judge Andrew J. Kleinfeld on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

His teaching interests are in the regulation of the legal profession and torts, and his research focuses on the application of moral and political philosophy to problems of legal ethics.



B.A., Rice University, 1991
J.D., Duke University Law School,1994
LL.M., 1998 and J.S.D., 2002, Columbia University Law School