Banking & finance law: area of practice
From simple lending structures to complex regulatory regimes, banking and finance solicitors help borrowers and lenders to navigate the often complex legal framework that underpins borrowing and lending in the global economy. The day-to-day work of a banking and finance solicitor involves drafting and negotiating the contracts that set out the terms of various debt-funding arrangements.
The nature and complexity of the contracts varies depending on the type, structure and level of financing involved. A business might require financing for the acquisition of a company or a property, or for the construction of a new solar project. Clients are diverse and cross-sector, including investment banks, large corporates and start-ups.
Transactions tend to be fast-paced – lasting four weeks on average, from taking instructions to completion. On a mid-size to large transaction, the banking and finance team will usually consist of at least one partner, a senior associate, an associate, a trainee and/or a paralegal. In smaller transactions an associate may lead the transaction, under the supervision of a partner but otherwise working with a trainee only. In addition, the banking and finance team will often be required to work with overseas solicitors on cross-border transactions.
Will you spend a lot of time at your firm’s offices as a banking lawyer?
Solicitors in this area of law may be required to attend physical completion meetings but, in general, will spend most of their chargeable time based in the office. Effective communication with clients, however, remains central to the role of a banking and finance solicitor. There is frequent face-to-face client contact through business development events, which are an important part of the job given the large banks and institutions lawyers act for all use a number of different law firms.
What is the work/life balance like in this area of law?
Work in this area of law is often dictated by critical deadlines and, as with many other transactional areas, there tend to be peaks and troughs in activity. You might be working late to close a deal one week, but then have a relatively easy few days the following week, with early finishes. Secondments to clients (particularly banks) are also common in this area of law and offer a great opportunity to develop commercial awareness. While most work is carried out in the office, the international nature of banking and finance law means there are opportunities to travel to foreign offices and to visit overseas clients.
It is great working with and developing relationships with clients in this sector. It can be difficult when unforeseen issues arise, when negotiations become tense or when we have to work to an unrealistic deadline, but the continuous dialogue we have with our clients makes it easier for us to deliver practical and commercial solutions under time pressure. Our clients are frequently repeat-clients, so we have a strong rapport with them and know them well.
Are there are new developments affecting banking departments in law firms?
There is a growing focus on ‘smart cities’ (delivering new technologies and innovation to meet the long-term challenges arising from urbanisation). There are many unique challenges in relation to financing smart city technologies and we are working closely with our clients in this area to help them to meet these challenges.
How does the state of the economy affect banking and finance work?
Many financial institutions were badly affected in the recession. This led to a downturn in certain types of lending. The recession did, however, lead to the emergence of alternative lenders and other new entrants into this market, which has freshened up many of the lending transactions we are involved with. The impact of Brexit will not be clear until exit negotiations are complete, but solicitors in this area will need to engage with clients in order to help them to successfully negotiate this period of transition.
How much responsibility are trainee solicitors given?
Trainees play an active role in managing transactions from start to finish. Trainees are responsible for gathering information from clients and members of other teams in the firm. Working closely with other lawyers to meet deadlines and to ensure the smooth running of the completion process is another vital element of this role. This is a fast-paced seat with plenty of opportunity to take on responsibility from an early stage.
The types of law banking and finance solicitors use in their job
- Equity and trusts.
What particular skills do you need to be a successful banking and finance solicitor?
- The ability to build and maintain strong relationships with others, and to work collaboratively to meet deadlines.
- The ability to give prompt and pragmatic advice to clients, delivered in a commercially focused manner.
TOM BUSSY is a partner in the banking team at OSBORNE CLARKE LLP. He graduated with a modern history degree from the University of Oxford in 2001.