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Banking & Financial Services

Overview

Finance attorneys represent borrowers or lenders in transactions involving lines of credit, loans, or restructurings. Law firm practices tend to lean toward either the lender or borrower side, though some practices work on both sides. Financing can come from traditional banks as lenders or from private credit funds. In the U.S., the practice is heavily concentrated in New York where the majority of the banks and private lenders are located, but the practice can be international, and finance attorneys are in demand in international capital markets as well (London and Hong Kong, for example). The practice often involves acquisition finance supporting a larger M&A transaction, which means deadlines can fluctuate, and the hours can be erratic, especially on the borrower side, where the transaction timeline can be at the mercy of the lender’s side. Financing deals tend to be relatively short, so lawyers are frequently moving from one transaction to the next.

Featured Q&A's
Get an insider's view on working in Banking & Financial Services from real lawyers in the practice area.
Susanna M. Suh, Partner
Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP

Describe your practice area and what it entails.

My banking practice involves representing financial institutions and public and private companies in loan financings.

What types of clients do you represent?

I represent major financial institutions like Bank of America, Morgan Stanley, and PNC Bank—who act as arrangers, administrative agents, and lenders—and borrowers like Linde plc, a multinational industrial gas company, and Arch Capital Group, a Bermuda-based insurance and reinsurance group.

What types of cases/deals do you work on?

We generally work on large, complex credit facilities, ranging in size from hundreds of millions to billions of dollars. Many credit facilities are used in M&A transactions and involve commitment letters provided to the buyer in the acquisition. Most deals involve non-investment-grade borrowers and are, therefore, secured by assets of the borrower and its subsidiaries. I recently represented Citibank and PNC Bank on a credit facility for CONSOL Energy Inc. in connection with its spinoff as an independently traded public company. It involved a very complicated collateral package and required negotiations with many parties, culminating in a closing that occurred concurrently with the spinoff and related transactions.

How did you choose this practice area?

My first bank financing at Cahill was when I was a summer associate. It was a syndicated credit facility of over a billion dollars for Time Warner. It was exciting to be part of this big, important deal. As an associate, I continued to work on bank financings, but also worked on all types of transactional matters. Fortunately, at Cahill, I am able to maintain a wide-ranging portfolio, even as a partner. While I do a lot of banking work, I have also worked on debt and equity securities offerings, corporate advisory, and M&A. My varied experience gives me a broader perspective and helps me to be more effective in banking transactions as a result.

What is a typical day like and/or what are some common tasks you perform?

I spend much of my day advising clients, negotiating issues with other parties, reading and analyzing loan documents, and talking through ideas and questions with my partners and associates. I may work through a novel or difficult question, help a client structure a deal, or walk a junior associate through my comments on a draft document he or she prepared.

The partners at Cahill are very hands-on in the life of the firm in addition to client work. So nearly every day, I do something in my role as a member of our Professional Development Committee or as a formal mentor to several associates. This could include moderating a discussion during a luncheon with affinity groups, giving a training program to associates on analyzing acquisition agreements from the lenders’ perspective, and meeting with a mentee associate about how his or her work is going.

Our deal teams are generally staffed leanly, so every member of the team has an important role. Junior associates may begin by drafting initial drafts of ancillary documents and preparing initial markups of documents prepared by the other firm. However, we don’t limit junior associates on what they can do—we give assignments based on what we believe they can handle. We often see our junior associates working with counterparts at other law firms who are much more senior. This is because our associates gain so much more experience during their time here.

What training, classes, experience, or skills development would you recommend to someone who wishes to enter your practice area?

Law students should hone their writing and analytical skills. Careful drafting is key to loan financings (and most other practice areas in law firms). For substantive knowledge, I recommend the following classes to law students who are interested in a finance practice: bankruptcy, federal income tax, secured transactions, and securities regulation.

What is the most challenging aspect of practicing in this area?

Loan financings often move very quickly. Timing often depends on an M&A transaction, market conditions, or some other driver that requires us to work on a tight timeframe. The most challenging aspect when I started my career was managing time, and that continues to be the case.

What do you like best about your practice area?

Every day, we face difficult issues and problems on deals—the parties on the deal often have divergent interests that they want to protect. I love using critical thought and creativity to come up with solutions that work for all parties. The relationships with clients and colleagues that I’ve developed over the years are also very rewarding.

What misconceptions exist about your practice area?

A lot of law students think that work experience or a business, finance, or accounting degree is a prerequisite to working in a transactional practice. This is not true at Cahill. We train our associates from the ground up. Although a business, finance, or accounting background can be helpful—especially when starting out—you can learn what you need to know on the job.

What is unique about your practice area at your firm?

We have been the market leader in leveraged loan financings since 2010, with a 34 percent market share in lender representations in 2019. This means that we have unparalleled experience in the market. Our clients entrust us with their most difficult, most high-profile deals because we’re really good at what we do, and we keep getting better.

Nearly all our corporate partners started their careers at Cahill. Our long personal histories together at Cahill help us maintain a cohesive culture—we are committed to providing excellent service to our clients and understand what it takes to do that. And we are committed to training our associates to become superb lawyers so that Cahill continues its preeminence in finance.

Susanna M. Suh, Partner—Corporate

Susanna M. Suh represents global commercial and investment banks and public and private companies in a wide range of legal matters, including loan financings, debt and equity securities offerings, and liability management transactions. Susanna is recognized as a leading lawyer in bank lending and debt capital markets by IFLR1000 and The Legal 500. She was honored as a Woman of Distinction by the Girl Scouts of Greater New York in 2017.

Susanna has practiced at Cahill since graduating from Yale Law School, where she was editor-in-chief of the Yale Journal of International Law. She became a partner in 2003. Susanna has served in various capacities at Cahill, including administrative partner and co-chair of the firm’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee.

Christine Steenman, Senior Counsel
Allen & Overy LLP
Describe your practice area and what it entails.

My practice is very diverse, which keeps it interesting! There are three main focuses of my practice: export credit agency (ECA) finance, asset finance, and agency representation. ECA finance involves a debt transaction, which is receiving credit support from a government or quasi government entity (the ECA). Asset finance is often linked to ECA finance but involves the financing of large assets, such as satellites or other telecommunications equipment. Finally, on agency representation, we will represent the parties (typically large financial institutions) who take on the roles of administering a transaction after it closes.

What types of clients do you represent?

I represent all types of clients. However, the majority of my clients are large financial institutions, such as HSBC, Deutsche Bank, JP Morgan, and BNPP.

What types of cases/deals do you work on?

One thing I enjoy about my job is that the deals and work are varied. Examples of a few things I’m currently working on are an ECA-guaranteed loan to a Brazilian corporate in connection with the construction of a pulp mill, the sale of an aircraft by a private equity fund, a solar power financing in Chile, and an ECA-guaranteed loan to an Indian corporate.

How did you choose this practice area?

When I was in law school and during my summer at A&O, I had every intention of being a litigator. I even clerked after law school. When I came back to A&O after clerking, I started a six-month rotation in the Banking group with the understanding being at the end of those six months, I would permanently move to litigation. Fortunately, during that six-month rotation, I realized that I was much better suited to the transactional side of law. I enjoyed the collaborative nature of transactional work (we have opposing counsel, but everyone’s aim is to get a deal done), and I enjoyed the diversity of the work I was getting.

What is a typical day like and/or what are some common tasks you perform?

What keeps this job interesting is that there is no typical day. The days vary depending on what type of transaction you are working on and where in the world the other parties are located. If I’m doing a transaction involving European clients, the mornings will be very busy. Whereas if I’m working on transactions in Latin America, the middle of the day will be busy. The tasks that we undertake are going to be similar to those in other transactional practices, such as drafting documentation and joining conference calls to discuss issues.

What training, classes, experience, or skills development would you recommend to someone who wishes to enter your practice area?

I wish I had taken a course on secured transactions in law school. It was something I picked up on the job, but I was jealous of my colleagues who had a basic understanding of the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) when we started. I would also add that one skill you do not need is a background in finance. Having a basic understanding of the lingo is helpful, but the expectation is not that you should be able to do financial modeling as a banking attorney.

What is the most challenging aspect of practicing in this area?

One of the most challenging aspects of my practice comes from the diversity of jurisdictions that we work in. When working on cross-border matters, it is not sufficient to know that your documentation works under New York law; you need to coordinate with local counsel in the relevant jurisdictions to ensure that the documentation either works in their jurisdiction or that you are putting appropriate documentation in place in that jurisdiction. For example, we recently closed a secured loan to a Brazilian company that is guaranteed by a Finnish government entity. In that scenario, we had a New-York-
law-governed loan agreement, Brazilian-law-governed security documents, and Finnish-law-governed guarantee documents. As the lawyer running the transaction, it was my job to make sure that all of the various pieces of the transaction worked together and that the Brazilian documents worked with the New York documents and that they all worked with the Finnish documents. The cross-border nature of the work adds complexity but also keeps it interesting.

What do you like best about your practice area?

That I’m never bored. In my practice, no two transactions are ever identical. Each transaction offers a new question or issue that needs to be resolved. I enjoy working with the clients to find solutions and seeing a transaction reach a successful closing.

What is unique about your practice area at your firm?

Putting aside the cross-border nature of the work (which I believe makes A&O unique), what separates our practice from similar practices at other firms are the opportunities that are given early on. As a junior associate, I was included in marketing events and encouraged to pursue opportunities that I saw. As a result of that, doing client development became a regular part of just being a lawyer early on in my career. It has also resulted in me having long-standing relationships with clients who have proved invaluable and incredibly supportive in my career.

How important is it for project finance lawyers to keep abreast of and develop strategies regarding economic trends and market cycles, and how can junior attorneys develop these skills?

Our role is to advise clients. As such, it is incredibly important that we stay informed on market trends. I often have clients call just to ask what we see happening in certain areas of the market or where we think certain things are headed. A&O excels at getting targeted information out to the attorneys. I’m subscribed to a few interest groups within A&O (these groups can be region specific, industry specific, or client specific), so to the extent there is any important development in an area, it is usually in my inbox by the time I get to the office. As a junior associate, it is important to not only read articles and other publications in your practice area, but also to talk to your colleagues. There is a wealth of knowledge within A&O, and one of the great things about A&O is that if you ask a question, there is very likely someone within the A&O network who has dealt with the issue at hand.

Christine Steenman, Senior Counsel — General Lending and Asset Finance

Christine Steenman is a member of the Banking department in Allen & Overy’s New York office. Christine has a diverse practice, including large asset finance, export credit supported finance, trade finance, and general corporate finance. Her practice is almost entirely cross border, and she has advised on financings involving a multitude of jurisdictions.

Christine’s clients include large financial institutions, private equity firms, and corporations. The diversity of her practice and clients means that she works in a number of different industries, including manufacturing, transportation, and telecommunications.

Christine received her B.A. from Lafayette College and her J.D. from the University of Michigan. She was a summer associate at A&O in 2007.

William Brady, Partner
Paul Hastings LLP

Describe your practice area and what it entails.

My practice entails structuring and documenting complex finance transactions for alternative lenders who are typically financing the acquisition or activities of private-equity-backed companies. The lawyers in the practice are cross trained in restructuring, so we also restructure these credits when needed.

What types of clients do you represent?

My client base is broad and includes private debt funds, investment funds, specialty finance firms, hedge funds, commercial finance companies, business development companies, and other alternative lenders in financial centers around the world. Representation is confidential, but the clients include many of the world’s most well-known capital providers, who invest in the middle market, as well as the large cap space.

What types of cases/deals do you work on?

My practice focuses on complex finance transactions and credit arrangements, particularly financings that include a junior capital component or multiple tranches of debt.

Examples include the representation of:

  • One of the largest global alternative lenders as minority lender in the first lien financing and the sole lender in the second lien financing in connection with the multi-billion dollar acquisition of a leading company in the U.S. physical therapy industry.
  • The agent and lead last-out lender in a $225 million bifurcated unitranche loan to a sponsor-backed software company to refinance existing debt and fund a dividend recapitalization.

How did you choose this practice area?

I have always had an interest in corporate law—specifically finance—and the alternative lender space is one that has grown dramatically over the past 10-plus years.

What is a typical day like and/or what are some common tasks you perform?

The nice thing is that there is no typical week in my practice. The clients we counsel include the industry’s premier names in this space, and their high-stakes transactions invariably rely on complex financial instruments—often on extremely tight timeframes. Structures vary greatly from deal to deal, and each client and transaction requires a thoughtful approach; there is never a “one-size-fits-all” solution.

What training, classes, experience, or skills development would you recommend to someone who wishes to enter your practice area?

Coming out of law school, the more corporate-related classes you can take, the better, with bonus points for classes like secured transactions and corporate bankruptcy. That said, over the long haul, skills development is even more important, for example—taking ownership of whatever your role may be on a deal, trying to do more than the bare minimum on an assignment, and really digging into the documents and the transaction generally to fully digest it. There are no shortcuts in this practice, and hard work really does pay off.

What is unique about your practice area at your firm?

I lateraled over in 2016, and as a partner at Paul Hastings, I can say it is unique in so many positive ways, none more important than the culture of the firm. With the hard work and the hours that lawyers at large law firms invest, it’s a game changer if you can find the right culture, where you really feel like you are all on the same team.

What are some typical tasks that a junior lawyer would perform in this practice area?

One of the great aspects of the Alternative Lender group is that we don’t slot associates into a particular role based on their class levels. We allow associates at all levels to take on as much responsibility and as many tasks as they are comfortable with and that they show they are capable of completing.

Many of our associates far exceed their class level in terms of legal competency because we allow them to grow and excel at a quicker rate than most typical “BigLaw” finance groups—this is a result of the fact that we are a fast-growing and dynamic group.

What kinds of experience can summer associates gain in this practice area at your firm?

We treat summer associates just as any other associate in our practice group—over the past several years, summer associates have been able to take part in our finance transactions from inception to closing and are able to complete many of the same tasks that regular associates do. They are able to participate substantially on such matters and able to get the true experience of a finance associate, taking part and being included in all aspects of the transaction.

What are some typical career paths for lawyers in this practice area?

While many attorneys will choose to stay in the practice as lawyers within the firm, others are able to go “in-house” to clients, if that is something that they are interested in. We have relationships with dozens of private credit lenders, and there are always opportunities for in-house legal placement at such clients.

William Brady, Partner & Head—Alternative Lender Group

Bill Brady is head of the firm’s Alternative Lender and Private Credit practice. Bill’s practice focuses on complex finance transactions and credit arrangements for a broad array of alternative lenders and investors, including traditional mezzanine funds, second lien lenders, hedge funds, BDCs, SBIC funds, one-stop shops, insurance companies, and specialty finance companies, often in the context of domestic and cross-border leveraged buyouts, recapitalizations, re-financings, and restructurings.

Mr. Brady has extensive experience in intercreditor and interlender issues, secured creditor and bankruptcy rights, and debt restructurings, and he regularly negotiates intercreditor and subordination agreements, agreements among lenders, and other complex interlender agreements. His experience extends across a variety of industries, including technology, health care, energy, retail, media, communications, gaming, pharmaceuticals, biotech, manufacturing, financial services, insurance, security, and food services.

For more information about Bill’s practice, please refer to: http://www.paulhastings.com/professionals/details/williambrady

Gretchen Lamberg, Counsel
Sidley Austin LLP

Describe your practice area and what it entails.

The Banking and Financial Services group at Sidley comprises 32 lawyers primarily located in our DC and London offices. Our group specializes in supporting clients in the banking, financial services, and payments industries in connection with transactions, legal compliance, product development, regulatory examinations and enforcement matters, and legislative and regulatory advocacy. The subject matter of our work includes federal and state banking and financial services laws and regulations. While some of our practice focuses on traditional banking, we spend much of our time helping clients address emerging issues and developing new business lines or products.

What types of clients do you represent?

As you might expect, our practice supports banks and other traditional providers of financial products and services, such as bank holding companies and broker-dealers. However, a significant portion of our client base comprises non-bank financial service providers and companies in non-financial industries that partner with, support, or receive services from banks and financial services companies. For example, we represent payment networks, payment and data processors, financial technology companies, virtual currency issuers, physical and online retailers, and money transmitters.

What types of cases/deals do you work on?

All members of our group have practices that include both regulatory and transactional work, while some also support litigation on financial services issues. Transactional work in this area also includes providing compliance and regulatory advice to address issues such as structuring and allocation of compliance responsibilities. My practice is predominately transactional. Representative transactions include supporting both banks and non-banks in transactions that bring new consumer products to the marketplace, such as co-branded credit cards, debit cards, and mobile wallets; negotiating service agreements, such as payment processing agreements; and drafting payment network rules that apply to the participants in their systems.

How did you choose this practice area?

Like many others in our practice group, banking and financial services was not my first stop out of law school. Initially, I worked in a corporate practice in New York City and worked on IPOs, mergers, and private equity deals. I moved to Washington, DC, as a junior associate after 9/11 and the tech crash in 2001. While I enjoyed a transactional practice, I knew that developing an expertise in a particular regulated industry together with a transactional practice would provide more opportunities in DC. Of the various fields, banking and financial services was appealing because it touches every company and person in our society. Sidley’s reputation for high-quality work in a collegial atmosphere is what drew me to the firm.

What is a typical day like and/or what are some common tasks you perform?

My days vary depending on the nature of my projects at any given time. I spend the majority of my time working on deals. On those days, I will likely be found drafting, reviewing, or revising an agreement; having discussions with my client about strategic or technical positions to take in a negotiation; or negotiating a deal with a counterparty. On days when the deal work is lighter, I might be researching a client question, writing a memo, or drafting a compliance policy.

What training, classes, experience, or skills development would you recommend to someone who wishes to enter your practice area?

Critical skills in this area are clear and concise writing, the ability to conduct thorough and accurate legal research, and the ability to analyze the application of law and regulation to new fact patterns. A junior associate without experience in the banking and financial services area will be able to acquire the necessary substantive knowledge on the job. However, it would be helpful to take a banking law course in law school. Other courses that may be useful for background include those on Sections 4 and 4A of the Uniform Commercial Code, contracts, accounting, securities, and IP. With technology driving many developments in banking and financial services, a technology background would also be helpful.

What is the most challenging aspect of practicing in this area?

The most challenging part of practicing law in banking and financial services is also the most exciting part. The technology for accessing and providing banking and financial services is evolving quickly. The vast laws and regulations that impact the banking and financial services industry are broad and deep, and they do not evolve at the same pace as financial services technology. Assessing the risk of noncompliance and advising on compliant processes when presented with issues of first impression are challenges; however, developing strategies and solutions to mitigate those risks is exciting.

What are some typical tasks that a junior lawyer would perform in this practice area?

Our practice group tends to staff projects leanly, often with just one partner or counsel and one associate. As a result, we generally give junior lawyers more responsibility and more challenging projects than in a practice area with more layered staffing. A junior associate would likely work on researching questions, writing memos, and supporting transactions by drafting and revising agreements and other transaction documents. Junior lawyers are included from the outset on client calls and communications. Early on, they typically work with many partners and counsel and across subject-matter areas to develop a range of knowledge across topics and to develop working relationships with other lawyers in the group. Over time, associates are able to focus more on specific clients in particular subject matters and/or with specific partners and counsel.

What are some typical career paths for lawyers in this practice area?

Lawyers in this practice area may continue to work in law firms for the duration of their careers. However, there are a variety of other industries in which financial services lawyers may pursue their careers, e.g., in government agencies, such as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, or the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, with regulatory oversight over banks and non-bank financial institutions and financial products. Financial services lawyers also work in-house for banks, payment networks and retailers, or technology companies that support or offer financial products or services to their customers.

How do you prepare for a negotiation?

I prepare for a negotiation by becoming familiar with the proposed transaction and the relevant deal documentation. I then seek to understand the nature of the relationship between my client and the counterparty, including the relative leverage between them, as well as my client’s key goals for the transaction, such as how the deal fits into the overall strategy in the near and long term. Finally, together with the client, I identify the most important issues and deal-breakers to address early in the negotiation and how the client wants to structure the negotiation. For example, does the client prefer that I take the lead, or does the client prefer to take the lead and defer to me on contentious points?

Gretchen Lamberg, Counsel—Banking and Financial Services

Gretchen Lamberg is counsel in Sidley’s Washington, DC, office and is a member of the firm’s Banking and Financial Services practice, which received the 2019 Chambers USA Award for “Financial Services Regulation.” She represents a wide range of entities involved in financial and payment systems, including insured depository institutions, technology providers, payment processors and systems, and retailers and other merchants. Gretchen has extensive experience in assisting clients with drafting and negotiating a variety of agreements for both back-end services and programs for consumer financial products and services. She also assists clients with respect to regulatory matters, such as responding to regulatory reforms, preparing regulatory filings, interfacing with regulators, and complying with various laws and regulations—including the laws applicable to money transmission and anti-money laundering. 

Stephen Salley, Partner
Sullivan & Cromwell LLP

Describe your practice area and what it entails.

I am a member of our Financial Services group, which ad-
vises financial services clients in the U.S. and from around the world on a full range of transactional, advisory, and enforcement matters. Consistent with the firm’s generalist model, we take a broad approach to our practice, defined by client industry rather than practice type. As a result of that, my work encompasses M&A, strategic investments, regulatory matters, corporate governance, investigations and enforcement, and other areas—our goal is to be a total advisor to our clients, and that means my work is varied and driven by their needs and the most important issues they are facing at any given time.

What types of clients do you represent?

To name a few, American Express, Barclays, Bank of Nova Scotia, HSBC, and Wells Fargo. These are more of the “household” names, but my practice is broader and really runs the gamut. In addition to more established institutions, we also represent fintech companies, private equity investors, trade associations, payments companies, and many others—in fact, just last year, I represented a real estate investment trust. We don’t silo ourselves into doing one thing. The breadth and diversity of the practice, both subject matter and clients, keeps it interesting and keeps us at the forefront of industry developments.

What types of cases/deals do you work on?

As already mentioned, the scope of my matters is broad—M&A, advisory, and enforcement. The most recent deal I completed was representing The Bank of Nova Scotia—one of the largest banks in Canada—in the sale of its Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands operations.

How did you choose this practice area?

I came out of law school with a very strong interest in transactional work, but I didn’t quite know enough to understand what that really meant. Our Senior Chairman, Rodge Cohen, was my partner advisor when I was a summer associate, so I was quickly immersed in the practice. My experience working with him and with other lawyers in our Financial Services group introduced me to a substantive practice and industry-focused approach that I didn’t even know existed when I was a law student and that is unique to S&C. The ability to practice in multiple different substantive areas and to develop long-term relationships with clients appealed to my desire for a dynamic practice that would allow me to grow quickly as a lawyer. I also genuinely enjoy working with my colleagues and the longstanding client relationships I’ve formed. For instance, I have been working with American Express since I was a first-year associate, and I’ve now known and worked with many people there for more than a decade.

What is a typical day like and/or what are some common tasks you perform?

The truth is that there is no typical day! Days are driven by the projects I’m working on and client needs. So, some days could be spent almost entirely in meetings or on calls with the client or opposing counsel negotiating an M&A transaction. Other days could be spent developing potential transaction structures to achieve an objective within the complex U.S. regulatory framework. But to try to hone in on “typical,” on most days, some amount of time is spent communicating with clients (by phone, in person, via email, or some combination) or meeting with and working with my internal teams.

What training, classes, experience, or skills development would you recommend to someone who wishes to enter your practice area?

Taking a course in financial regulation or administrative law could be helpful, given an important aspect of our practice is the U.S. regulatory framework and because those courses should introduce students to the basic vocabulary and background. That being said, there is no substitute for the kinds of hands-on training that associates get here—even starting as summer and first-year associates. For that reason, I would encourage students to take classes that challenge them to think creatively and outside the box, which is ultimately what keeps clients coming to us.

What do you like best about your practice area?

I really enjoy being an overall advisor to our clients with the ability to be a “go-to” for virtually any issue that they face. The breadth of my practice makes every day unique and challenging, and we are very engaged with our clients in the matters that are most meaningful to them at any particular time.

What is unique about your practice area at your firm?

Some law firms have a strong M&A practice and others may have a strong regulatory practice. What sets S&C apart is that we offer a single financial services practice that provides top-level transactional, regulatory, and enforcement advice. This is really unique to S&C, and we believe it allows us to provide tremendous value to our clients and provides incredible training to our associates. For example, in a recent M&A transaction, a team consisting of me and two corporate associates covered the same ground as our counterparts at another major firm that brought in four different teams of lawyers covering four different practice areas.

What are some typical tasks that a junior lawyer would perform in this practice area?

Like all S&C lawyers, a junior associate in our Financial Services group has a broad practice. It’s not uncommon for our junior associates to be the only associate on a matter—particularly if it’s a smaller transaction—which means they may be negotiating and leading the deal on the associate side, developing a memo on a particular legal question, or working on developing a transaction structure. And while our junior lawyers have plenty of opportunities to build their research and writing skills, it’s not uncommon for junior associates to run transactions directly with me—I’m working on a public company M&A transaction right now where the “senior” associate is a third-year associate. Our lean staffing model offers associates a very high level of responsibility early on, and there are many opportunities to engage directly with partners and clients.

How do you see this practice area evolving in the future?

The financial services area is constantly evolving, particularly in the payments and fintech space, including as established institutions adapt in response to market, technology, and competitive changes. In the last few years, there has been a steady level of investment by established institutions in startups, with most major banks having a venture arm. It can also go the other way. We now are advising some of the more mature fintechs that began operating intentionally outside the regulated bank space in their evaluation of either chartering or acquiring a bank. Given the nature of our practice and the generalist training that allows us to adapt more nimbly to changes in the market, we are well positioned to advise our clients on all of these issues, as well as on new issues that may arise as technology, the market, and the law continue to develop. All of this means that this is an exciting and interesting time to be a financial services lawyer at S&C.

Stephen Salley, Partner—Financial Services Group

Recently recognized by Law360 as a “Rising Star” in Banking and by M&A Advisor as one of its “Emerging Leaders,” Stephen Salley is a partner in Sullivan & Cromwell’s Financial Services group, where his practice focuses on mergers and acquisitions; corporate governance; and bank regulatory, supervisory, and enforcement matters involving companies operating in the financial services industry. Clients include U.S. and non-U.S. banks, fintechs, asset managers, broker-dealers, insurance companies, private equity funds, and trade associations, among others.

Stephen’s pro bono work has included representation of a microfinance nonprofit and a young musician “incubator” on various corporate matters.

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