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Banking lawyer gives graduates advice on this area of legal practice

Banking & finance law: area of practice

The hours depend on the transactions your are working on; if your deals are busy, you will be too, explains Anthony Warner – a senior associate at Baker McKenzie.
Building client relationships is probably the single most important aspect of developing a successful banking and finance practice.

Banking and finance is about borrowing and lending money; a lawyer’s job is to facilitate this process. Typically, transactions involve acting for borrowers or lenders. In a large global firm you will usually work on several large transactions simultaneously, along with a few smaller matters.

Clients set transaction timetables (rather than courts or regulators). Deal timetables range from a few weeks to several months, depending on the type of work.

The work is generally office based, although client meeting at key points during the transaction are common. The closing of deals generally happens by email these days.

What is working life like in this area of law?

Team sizes depend on the size and complexity of a transaction. Usually a deal is led by a partner, with a senior associate fronting the core documents and a junior associate and/or trainee handling the ancillary documentation.

There is a certain level of unpredictability in terms of work/life balance due to banking and finance practices being transactional. The hours depend on the transaction you are working on; if your deals are busy, you will be too. However, we do try to spread the load and to make sure it’s rewarding. What’s more, new technologies are now coming on the scene quickly, which will help significantly with a good number of our everyday tasks.

During quieter moments you will be able to focus on know-how and business development. Building client relationships is probably the single most important aspect of developing a successful banking and finance practice; you will be given a chance to (and expected to) look for opportunities to socialise and engage with clients.

The worst thing about being a banking lawyer is getting ‘that call’ from a client late on a Friday afternoon. The best thing is seeing your deal featured in a major international news outlet, and the feeling of having worked hard with a great cross practice team to conclude a complex transaction successfully.

What trainee solicitors experience in banking & finance seats

Trainees are central to our practice. They are involved in a wide range of activities, including:

  • drafting security documents
  • drafting ancillary documents (eg board minutes and officer’s certificates)
  • registering and discharging security
  • liaising with local counsel (barristers)
  • coordinating the conditions precedent process
  • coordinating signing/closing logistics
  • assisting with business development
  • assisting with know-how
  • attending client events.

Trainees should have a good understanding of the basic functioning of the financial markets in the City of London, as well as a wider sense of commercial awareness.

What impact will Brexit have on banking & finance law?

We are busier than ever in our department and anecdotal evidence suggests that most City practices are too. Initially Brexit created uncertainty, but current indications are that the City of London will retain its status as a prime global financial centre. Some administrative and structural functions will inevitably pass to other financial centres (these things are always in flux), but the reality is that no other place of business in Europe offer the sheer breadth and depth of seasoned financial experience and resources that you find in the Square Mile.

Because of the particular suitability of English law for use in commercial transactions, a huge range of banking and finance transactions across Europe (and indeed globally) are governed by English law. We will watch with interest to see whether this changes over time.

Innovation and regulatory/supervisory reform is ever-present. Drafting automation is of growing importance, and adapting to such developments is essential if one is to remain efficient and cost-effective.

What particular skills do you need to be a successful banking and finance solicitor?

  • Teamwork skills.
  • Drafting and analytical reasoning skills.
  • Commercial acumen.
  • Sound ‘black letter law’.
  • The ability to deal with clients (sometimes in challenging and time-pressured situations).

The types of law banking & finance solicitors use in their job

  • Contact.
  • Property.
  • Trusts.
  • Regulatory.

ANTHONY WARNER is a senior associate in the banking and finance group at BAKER MCKENZIE. He graduated from the University of St Andres with a masters in international relations.

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