Whats it all about?
Banking and finance encompasses a huge range of work and expertise, but essentially relates to lending and borrowing money. Banking and finance lawyers working at City firms tend to specialise in very specific areas or products, for example project finance (a method for funding infrastructure deals such as roads and hospitals). Meanwhile, lawyers at smaller or regional firms will often take a more general approach. A banking and finance lawyer who focuses on acting for lenders will have a client base made up of high street and investment banks, while those who specialise in advising the borrower will have clients ranging from entrepreneurs to multinational businesses.
The working culture
It will come as no surprise that banking and finance lawyers work long hours. The financial markets may shut at 5pm, but the lawyers will be working well beyond that time to make sure all the documents are in place.
Junior lawyers working on large-scale deals should not expect to play a major role in drafting and negotiating legal documents, as the agreements governing the relationships between lenders and borrowers are usually extremely complex and full of jargon. But after gaining four or five years post-qualified experience, you can expect to run your own deals, lead negotiations and be the main point of contact for clients.
Why is this interesting?
Finance is at the heart of deal-making and every multibillion-pound acquisition. Even on the high street, mortgages, car loans and even student loans will be financed through deals in which lawyers have played a major part. Bigger firms will also have lawyers based in the worlds major financial centres such as New York, Hong Kong, Frankfurt, Dubai or Tokyo, and there will be plenty of opportunities for experienced lawyers to work overseas.
Personal and legal skills required
A finance and banking lawyer needs to have a good head for figures as well as in-depth understanding of their legal areas. They should also be able to work in a highly pressurised environment. Good organisational skills are also essential as deals often involve a large number of documents.