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What It’s Like to Be a Banking Attorney
Summary: It’s no secret that the U.S. economy has undergone major changes in the past decade. With the housing bubble burst and the resulting recession, the roles of banking and commercial finance attorneys have changed to meet the new demands of the present market. For more information about working as a banking and commercial finance attorney, read the article below.
In recent years, banks have undergone major changes—both small and large banks have merged with national banks and other financial institutions. You’ve probably noticed your local banking branches swapping out their signs as they come under new ownership. Banks have also begun to offer the sale of insurance and securities, as opposed to strictly offering financial services.
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Enter banking attorneys. This group of lawyers provides legal services to the financial services industry. They may represent lenders, borrowers, or other players in commercial activities and acquisitions. As an illustration, consider a fashion company. It may need working capital to finance a new line of women’s clothing. Therefore, the lender, borrower, and others involved would need attorneys to represent their respective interests. These deals can be very complex: they may include national or even international interests, and often include both unsecured and secured creditors. Banking attorneys are also needed in refinancings, debt-based acquisitions, recapitalizations, and tender offer financings, which involve offers for the purchase of the stock of a company to acquire control of that company. These attorneys also assist in restructuring of troubled financings (“workouts”), bankruptcy buyouts (including the sale or purchase of assets or loans), and assisting debtors and lenders with problematic acquisitions.
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Where do these attorneys work? The obvious answer is that some attorneys work in banks and financial institutions as in-house counsel. These attorneys may also work in law firms and serve as outside counsel to these entities. In these roles, the attorneys must be aware of the regulatory requirements of their institutions. These attorneys may assist with a wide array of issues, such as employment concerns, litigation strategies, business matters, purchasing issues, and tax liabilities. Some attorneys work as trust officers. Other positions include working for state and federal regulation agencies, such as the Federal Reserve Bank. Banking attorneys serve many different types of clients. Tina Taguchi works in banking and commercial lending at Davis Polk & Wardwell in New York City. She works with financial institutions such as JPMorgan, banks like Chase, and lenders, including Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrett. She also represents borrowers. Her practice is mainly transactional work.
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Lisa Meyers is a banking attorney at Farris, Warfield & Kanady in Nashville. Her clients are mostly loan officers with large financial institutions who want advice on deals and transactions. She prepares and sends documents, makes any necessary revisions, and then prepares closing documents to close the deal.
Nick Ferro is an attorney with Heller Financial Inc. in Chicago and is the Vice President of Corporate Asset Quality. When the company makes loans that underperform, Ferro steps in to figure out what the problem is at the borrower’s company and how Heller Financial can get its money back from that borrower. He and the other members of the corporate asset quality group determine what options are best depending on the collateral available and the identities of the other parties who may have invested. As far as the daily lives of these attorneys go, Taguchi says she’s on the phone a good bit negotiating terms and helping her clients structure deals. She creates documents on her computer. Due to the mobility of her work—making deals on the telephone and by email—she rarely needs to travel. Meyers agreed that she spends a good part of her day on the phone and on the computer. In addition, she spends time on firm matters such as marketing and office management. Ferro spends a good portion of his day communicating with borrowers to work out deals and interviewing managers of borrowing companies. He also drafts internal reports for Heller, as well as correspondence. In contrast to the above attorneys, he travels a good bit, he says.
When these attorneys were asked what was rewarding about this area of law, they agreed that the collaborative nature of the work was a major perk. It is a non-confrontational field because everyone wants to achieve the same goal—to complete the deal. It also provides intellectual challenges, and the deals have a limited time span as opposed to years-long litigation. Many attorneys are drawn to this field of law after dabbling in business and finance work. Some major in finance or economics, some clerk for bankruptcy judges or serve as summer associates in banking firms.
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If you want to be a banking attorney, it’s important that you have strong negotiation skills and enjoy working with intricate details. Strong legal drafting skills are a must, as well as good interpersonal skills. Plus, knowledge of business is vital so that you can read financial statements and understand the numbers so that you know what’s important to get out of a deal for your client. If being a banking attorney sounds like the right path for you, be sure to take secured transactions, commercial transactions, bankruptcy, creditor/debtor rights, real estate, corporations, securities, negotiations, Uniform Commercial Code, and legal drafting classes if offered at your law school. In undergraduate school, it’s recommended that you take accounting and finance classes. Work in a bank or financial institution while in college. In law school, try to land a judicial clerkship with a bankruptcy judge or a summer associate position with a banking firm. These attorneys also recommend you keep up with the latest developments in bank and finance by reading the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. To find out more about a career as a banking attorney, check out the link below.
Conclusion: banking and finance attorneys serve many different roles, in both the private and the public sector. These attorneys help financial institutions and borrowers close major deals and assist these entities with their daily business decisions.
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Photo credit: drumlaw.comWorking as a Banking Attorney in Today’s Fluctuating Economy by Noelle Price