What are the typical transactions in this department?
Typically, the 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 timelines range from a few weeks to several months, depending on the type of work.
The work is generally office-based, although client meetings at key points during the transaction are common; closings generally happen by email these days.
What is the team structure for a typical transaction and a trainee’s role?
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.
Trainees are central to the 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; co-ordinating the conditions precedent process; co-ordinating signing/closing logistics; assisting with business development; assisting with know-how; attending client events.
Due to banking and finance practices being transactional, there is a certain level of unpredictability in terms of work/life balance. The hours depend on the transactions we are working on; if the deals are busy, we will be too! However, Baker McKenzie does 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 everyday tasks.
During quieter moments lawyers 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; trainees will be given a chance to (and expected to) look for opportunities to socialise and engage with clients.
Has Brexit had an impact?
The banking team is busier than ever, 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 offers the sheer breadth and depth of seasoned financial experience and resources found 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. It will be interesting to watch whether this changes over time.
Tips for trainees wanting to undertake a seat in banking
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.
In addition to the basic requirement of sound ‘black letter law’, drafting and analytical reasoning skills, banking and finance lawyers need to be excellent project managers. Commercial acumen and the ability to deal with clients (sometimes in challenging and time-pressured situations) are also essential. Because of the team-based nature of the work, those who are naturally inclined to work well in a team will flourish.
With 77 offices in 47 countries, and a presence in all leading financial centres, Baker McKenzie is the world’s premier global law firm. London is home to the firm’s largest office where Baker McKenzie has been well established since its opening in 1961. With more than 400 lawyers, we deliver high-quality local solutions across a broad range of practices and offer global advice in conjunction with our international offices. Our client base consists primarily of venture capital funds, investment banks, technology powerhouses and household-name brands. With a strong international client base, we have considerable expertise in acting on, and co-ordinating, complex cross-border transactions and disputes.
For further information about the firm, see www.bakermckenzie.com