The Law: Banking and Finance

Working on multibillion-pound deals can be stimulating, but be prepared to work long hours in a high-pressure environment

The Law: Banking and FinanceWhats 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.

The pros:
Opportunities to work overseas or move in-house to a bank 2
Varied work and the satisfaction of working on groundbreaking deal structures

The cons:
Junior lawyers may get less responsibility than in other practice areas 2 Repetition some deals involve drafting standard form documents 2
The jargon

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.

Case Study

DP Worlds groundbreaking sukuk (Islamic bond); Gordon Browns announcement that he wants London to become the global Islamic finance centre; Lloyds TSBs decision to launch sharia-compliant mortgages

Wherever you look, Islamic finance is in the news. It is one of the fastest-growing areas of international banking and is set to get even bigger, driven by decisions by investments banks such as Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs to set up Islamic finance groups.

Firms with established Islamic finance practices such as Norton Rose, which has been in the market for some 12 years, are gearing up to win an increasing share of the business, while newcomers are increasingly looking to break in to the sector.

Denton Wilde Sapte scored a coup when it acted for Barclays Capital and Dubai Islamic Bank on DP Worlds $3.5bn (1.86bn) sukuk, which broke ground in a number of new areas. It was the first publicly issued sharia-compliant convertible sukuk and the largest sukuk in the market to date. The sukuk was used to fund DP Worlds takeover of P&O.