The following is an excerpt from Practice Perspectives: Vault’s Guide to Legal Practice Areas.
Dao Huynh, Managing Associate—Energy and Infrastructure
Dao Huynh is a managing associate in the San Francisco office of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP and is a member of the Energy and Infrastructure Group. Ms. Huynh’s practice focuses on energy and infrastructure project finance and development and general corporate matters. Ms. Huynh has participated in a variety of transactions for traditional and renewable energy projects and public and start-up companies. Prior to joining Orrick, Ms. Huynh held a year-long fellowship position as a staff attorney at TechSoup Global, a nonprofit technology organization. She also has previous experience working as an editor and contributing writer for Yahoo!, Inc.
Please provide an overview of what, substantively, your practice area entails.
I primarily represent energy project developers, sponsors, lenders, and other financing providers in connection with the development, financing, buying, and selling of renewable and traditional utility-scale energy projects and the financing of residential distributed solar projects.
What types of clients do you represent?
I have a broad range of clients from rooftop solar financing providers to developers, sponsors and lenders. In the past few years, my clients have included Recurrent Energy, LLC, Wellhead Electric, Rabobank, Kilowatt Financial, Sunrise Energy, SunEdison, TerraForm Power, and 8minutenergy Renewables.
What types of deals and/or cases do you work on?
My work is primarily focused on the following areas:
Project M&A: representing sellers in sales of utility-scale renewable energy projects, including due diligence, term sheet, and M&A negotiations.
Project Debt Financing: representing borrowers and lenders in bridge, construction, and term loan financings for utility-scale renewable energy projects.
Project Tax Equity Financing: representing sponsors and developers in tax equity financings for utility-scale renewable energy projects.
Residential Solar (Rooftop) Financing: representing financing providers in creating financing programs and drafting related agreements for residential solar customers and contractors.
How did you decide to practice in your area?
I really lucked into this practice—I was not confident when I was a law student that I had the right skill set to be a finance attorney and did not have much exposure to this area of law at that time, but I ended up being in the right place at the right time as a junior associate. The better question might be what keeps me here. I greatly enjoy working with my colleagues and the range of clients that I serve, from big multinational corporations to small companies with a few individuals—my clients and colleagues demonstrate a great passion for the energy sector and the courage to dream of the next big thing and make it so, particularly in renewable energy. My practice is always evolving and we deal with new issues on a regular basis. I went to law school to find a career with constant challenges and rewards and I have found just that in my practice.
What is a typical day or week like in your practice area?
On any given week, I may be working on anywhere from 2-4 transactions and other minor ongoing matters for clients. I spend a large part of my time drafting, reviewing, discussing, and revising agreements and other documents for those transactions. For example, this week, I’m revising a new term sheet for a client’s portfolio tax equity transaction and preparing to close a transaction for another client. I supervise more junior members of the team and in turn, work closely with more senior members to address more substantive drafting and legal issues that arise.
What is the best thing about your practice area?
I love being able to describe my job to my friends and family, have them connect directly to, and understand, my work, and know that I am helping to make a difference in energy. Believing in my work and my clientsí work makes all the difference on those inevitable late nights.
What is the most challenging aspect of your practice area?
My clients often face real deadlines for successfully completing their projects and every day can bring a new challenge to be overcome when it comes to meeting construction and financing deadlines. No two challenges are ever the same, but that is also what I find rewarding about this job!
What training, classes, experience, or skills development would you recommend to someone hoping to enter your practice area?
While there are no classes that are strictly required, courses or background experience in secured transactions and energy-related environmental, regulatory, and tax law would be helpful. Clear, concise writing, strong organizational skills, and methodical attention to detail are also highly valuable skills to have.
What misconceptions exist about your practice area? What do you wish you had known before joining your practice area?
I wish I had known how broad and deep the energy and infrastructure practice is. Our energy and infrastructure group at Orrick alone includes copper mining and hydroelectric project deals, public-private-placement transactions, wind, solar, natural gas, and a variety of other energy project transactions.
What is unique about your practice area at your firm?
I joined the Orrick energy and infrastructure group five years ago and since that time, we have increased our presence in Viet Nam, started an office in West Africa, and continue to grow our other offices. We staff seamlessly across offices, particularly among the U.S. offices, and we are truly one firm when it comes to serving our clients’ needs.
What activities do you enjoy when you are not in the office, and how do you make time for them?
My husband and I enjoy exploring San Francisco together, whether it is catching a movie night in Dolores Park, watching a play at Sutro Baths, or discovering yet another gem of a restaurant. I am able to make it work thanks to an understanding spouse and colleagues who are willing and able to help one another out. I have also been known to visit and work from Orrick’s other U.S. offices on occasion—it’s been great to connect with my colleagues in the other cities as well as my family and friends!