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Banking lawyer gives graduates advice on this area of legal practice

Banking & finance law: area of practice

The international nature of banking and finance law means there are opportunities to travel to foreign offices and to visit overseas clients, explains Tom Bussy – partner in the banking team at Osborne Clarke LLP.
There is a growing focus on ‘smart cities’, bringing unique challenges in financing smart city technologies.

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 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.

Transactions are often fast-paced, and the nature and complexity of the contracts will vary 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.

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 lawyers 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.

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.

What effect will Brexit have on banking & finance law?

The impact of Brexit on the UK financial services sector remains unclear and will depend on the withdrawal terms particularly in relation to passporting rights, which allow financial institutions to conduct their operations (including lending) across the EU, and the extent to which financial firms choose to move their operations so that they remain within the EU once withdrawal is concluded.

Some of our clearing bank clients have already announced plans to move jobs to other EU jurisdictions. Failure to negotiate a satisfactory deal will undoubtedly put the UK financial services industry under pressure, but, as noted above, it has proven itself to be resilient in adverse circumstances and is well placed to overcome this challenge to its global dominance. Banking and regulatory lawyers at my firm are engaging with clients to help them navigate this period of uncertainty.

In terms of English law finance documents, so far not much is changing due to Brexit. We are expecting this to change once withdrawal terms become clearer.

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

  • Banking.
  • Contract.
  • Insolvency.
  • 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.