Champerty in Legal Practice Risks and Considerations

Understanding Champerty

Champerty is a legal concept that has been debated and discussed for centuries. Originating from English common law, champerty refers to an agreement where a third party, known as a “champertor,” provides financial assistance to a party in a lawsuit in exchange for a share of the proceeds if the case is successful. While champerty was historically viewed as unethical and illegal, its legal status has evolved over time, leading to various interpretations and applications in modern legal practice.

Historical Origins

The concept of champerty traces back to medieval England, where it was considered a form of maintenance—an improper interference in a lawsuit by someone who had no legitimate interest in the case. Champerty was often associated with unscrupulous individuals who sought to profit from litigation by funding lawsuits in exchange for a portion of the proceeds. As a result, champerty was deemed contrary to public policy and prohibited by law.

Modern Application

In modern legal practice, the prohibition against champerty has been relaxed to some extent, particularly in jurisdictions that have adopted the “American Rule” for attorney fees, where each party typically bears its own legal costs. As a result, third-party litigation funding has become more prevalent, with investors providing financial backing to litigants in exchange for a share of the damages recovered. While champerty laws still exist in many jurisdictions, they are often subject to interpretation and may vary depending on the specific circumstances of each case.

Risks and Considerations

Despite the increased acceptance of third-party litigation funding, champerty agreements still carry inherent risks and considerations for all parties involved. One of the primary concerns is the potential for conflicts of interest, as third-party funders may prioritize their financial interests over the best interests of the litigants. Additionally, champerty agreements can lead to increased litigation costs, as funders may demand significant returns on their investments, potentially reducing the amount of damages recovered by the plaintiff.

Ethical Implications

Champerty agreements also raise ethical concerns for attorneys and litigants. Attorneys have a duty to provide competent and independent representation to their clients, free from any conflicts of interest or undue influence. When entering into champerty agreements, attorneys must ensure that their clients’ interests are protected and that they comply with applicable ethical rules and professional standards. Failure to do so could result in disciplinary action or legal liability.

Judicial Scrutiny

Courts may also scrutinize champerty agreements to ensure that they do not undermine the integrity of the legal system or compromise the administration of justice. Judges have the authority to reject champerty agreements that they deem to be contrary to public policy or detrimental to the fair resolution of disputes. As such, litigants and their attorneys must be prepared to justify the legitimacy of any third-party funding arrangements before the court.

Impact on Settlement Negotiations

Champerty agreements can also impact settlement negotiations, as defendants may be reluctant to negotiate with litigants who are backed by third-party funders seeking substantial returns on their investment. Additionally, the presence of a third-party funder may signal to defendants that the litigant is financially motivated and less willing to accept a reasonable settlement offer, potentially prolonging the litigation process and increasing costs for all parties involved.

Regulatory Oversight

In response to the growing prevalence of third-party litigation funding, some jurisdictions have implemented regulatory frameworks to govern champerty agreements and protect the interests of litigants. These regulations may require third-party funders to disclose their financial interests in the litigation, adhere to certain ethical guidelines, or obtain court approval before entering into champerty agreements. Regulatory oversight helps mitigate some of the risks associated with champerty while promoting transparency and fairness in the legal system.


In conclusion, champerty remains a complex and contentious issue in legal practice, with implications for litigants, attorneys, and the judiciary. While champerty agreements can provide litigants with access to justice and financial support, they also pose ethical, legal, and practical challenges that must be carefully considered. By understanding the risks and considerations associated with champerty, parties can make informed decisions and navigate the complexities of litigation funding in a responsible and ethical manner. Read more about champerty