Business Insolvency – New EU Rules

The EU is giving reputable bankrupt entrepreneurs a second chance, and making it easier for viable enterprises in financial difficulties to access preventive restructuring frameworks at an early stage to prevent insolvency.

The Council formally adopted today the directive on preventive restructuring frameworks, second chance and measures to increase the efficiency of restructuring, insolvency and discharge procedures. This decision marks the end of the legislative procedure.

The overall objective of the directive is to reduce the most significant barriers to the free flow of capital stemming from differences in member states’ restructuring and insolvency frameworks, and to enhance the rescue culture in the EU based on the principle of second chance. The new rules also aim to reduce the amount of non-performing loans (NPLs) on banks’ balance sheets and to prevent the accumulation of such NPLs in the future. In doing so, the proposal aims to strike an appropriate balance between the interests of the debtors and the creditors.

The key elements of the new rules include:

  • Early warning and access to information to help debtors detect circumstances that could give rise to a likelihood of insolvency and signal to them the need to act quickly.
  • Preventive restructuring frameworks: debtors will have access to a preventive restructuring framework that enables them to restructure, with a view to preventing insolvency and ensuring their viability, thereby protecting jobs and business activity. Those frameworks may be available also at the request of creditors and employees’ representatives.
  • Facilitating negotiations on preventive restructuring plans with the appointment, in certain cases, of a practitioner in the field of restructuring to help in drafting the plan.
  • Restructuring plans: the new rules foresee a number of elements that must be part of a plan, including a description of the economic situation, the affected parties and their classes, the terms of the plans, etc.
  • Stay of individual enforcement actions: debtors may benefit from a stay of individual enforcement actions to support the negotiations of a restructuring plan in a preventive restructuring framework. The initial duration of a stay of individual enforcement actions shall be limited to a maximum period of no more than four months.
  • Discharge of debt: over-indebted entrepreneurs will have access to at least one procedure that can lead to a full discharge of their debt after a maximum period of 3 years, under the conditions set out in the directive.

Next steps

This formal vote marks the end of the legislative process. The directive will now be formally signed and then published in the official journal. Member states will have two years (from the publication in the OJ) to implement the new provisions. However, in duly justified cases, they can ask the Commission for an additional year for implementation.

Background

The proposal was presented by the Commission on 22 November 2016. The new rules complement the 2015 Insolvency Regulation which focuses on resolving the conflicts of jurisdiction and laws in cross-border insolvency proceedings, and ensures the recognition of insolvency-related judgments across the EU.

The European Parliament formally voted on the directive on 28 March 2019.

Christina Blacklaws

KPMG hires ex-Law Society president

Former president of the Law Society Christina Blacklaws has been appointed as legal services ambassador at Big Four accountancy KPMG as it steps up its legal services offering.

Blacklaws, Law Society president from July 2018 to July 2019, will take up a part-time ‘strategic advisory role’ at the firm, helping to develop its legal practice.

Joining a team of 120, she will work on client solutions, talent engagement initiatives and legal innovation strategies, KPMG said. She will also focus on supporting women in law and leadership.

Nick Roome, UK head of legal services, said: ‘Our team is a fast-growing specialism within KPMG, with clients more frequently requiring integrated advisory solutions. We currently have a broad range of expertise across the legal spectrum but having Christina on board will give us another dimension. Her knowledge, expertise and ear-to-the-ground approach when it comes to the issues impacting our sector will help give us an additional edge in the market.’

Blacklaws added: ‘We’re operating in an increasingly challenging business environment, but, equally, it is an exciting time of growing enlightenment: we all know our sector needs to evolve to best support our clients and our colleagues alike.’

Empowering women in the legal profession was one of Blacklaws’ chief priorities as Law Society president. She also focused on social mobility and innovative and sustainable legal practice. The family specialist previously practised at TV Edwards and Co-Operative Legal Services.

‘Stubborn, wrongheaded’ approach to family law will fail

The federal government’s approach to family law will see it advocate again for a “bad law” to be passed by parliament, which it failed to pass in the last term, argues the Law Council president.

Speaking on Monday night at the Newcastle Law Society’s Annual Members’ Dinner, LCA president Arthur Moses SC said that we are “on the eve” of the government reintroducing the “fundamentally flawed merger bill”, which will see the abolition of the specialist Family Court.

“The government’s stubborn and wrongheaded approach to family law will see it advocate again for a bad law to be passed by parliament – a law which it failed to pass in the last parliament. This approach is not only irrational but is extremely disrespectful to the views of the significant stakeholders in the family violence services sector,” Mr Moses said.

“These dedicated professionals who understand this area better than any member of the government have made it clear that this policy will hurt children and families. As lawyers and members of our community, we all have a stake in this, regardless of where and what we practice.”

He reiterated that “specialisation matters” when it comes to addressing the inherent issues with the family law system.

“There is a dire need to resource and reform the family law system. We do not accept, though, that the way the government has sought to go about this would deliver meaningful reform,” he said.

“Last year, the Attorney-General announced in May a proposal to merge the specialist Family Court into the generalist Federal Circuit Court. There was no consultation with the community or the profession over the proposal – only with three heads of jurisdiction.

“The Law Council vehemently opposed the merger last year, and we will continue to oppose it because we do not support bad policy that will hurt children and families. With or without further amendment, we remain concerned that the merger will result in the loss of a standalone, dedicated Family Court as we know it, to the detriment of those in need of specialist family law assistance.

“Further, we do not accept the purported efficiencies it has been claimed the merger will produce. Rather, we are concerned it will further increase cost, time and stress for families.”

The merger fails, Mr Moses continued to alleviate the “fundamental problems plaguing the system”, including the risk of victims of family violence falling through the cracks.

“Abolishing a standalone specialist family court, whether directly or by abeyance, is no fix. Refusing to inject desperately needed funds and resources into a crippled system unless the parliament votes for the government’s plan is certainly no fix,” he argued.

“We are not alone in holding these concerns – they are shared by stakeholders and family violence support providers including Women’s Legal Services Australia, Rape and Domestic Violence NSW and Community Legal Centres.

Instead, the profession needs to retain a specialist, standlone family court, there must be “alternative holistic structural reform of the system”, and the government must adequately consult with stakeholders and carefully consider their recommendations.

“To suggest any one of these propositions is ‘radical’ is a fake argument. There should be nothing radical about the concept that critical social justice infrastructure should not be irrevocably altered without informed consultation and discussion with those who use the court, work in the court, or whose lives are irreversibly shaped by its decisions,” Mr Moses said.

Alexander McMyn Joins White & Case as a Partner in Singapore

Global law firm White & Case LLP has expanded its Global Banking Practice with the addition of Alexander (Xander) McMyn as a partner in Singapore.

“Singapore is the key financial hub in the Southeast Asian bank finance market, which has matured significantly in recent years with a marked increase in sophisticated financial sponsor activity,” said White & Case partner Eric Leicht, who leads the Firm’s Global Banking Practice. “Xander’s addition sends a clear signal that White & Case is determined to continue growing its role advising clients across Asia-Pacific on their most important financing transactions.”

McMyn has more than a decade of experience in Asia-Pacific and is recognized as a leading lawyer in the region’s finance market. He advises creditors, sponsors and borrowers on a wide range of transactions and has a particular focus on key investment destinations such as India, Indonesia and Australia, as well a thorough knowledge of other emerging Asia-Pacific markets. McMyn’s breadth of experience in the region is reflected in the variety of structures with which he is familiar – clients turn to him for advice on event-driven, structured and limited-recourse financings as well as commodities-related investments. Recently, a significant amount of McMyn’s work has involved the reassessment and restructuring of transactions that have not performed in the current environment. He joins White & Case from Hogan Lovells, where he was a partner, and brings nearly 20 years of experience.

“Xander is a leading lawyer with a substantial reputation in the Asia-Pacific finance market and strong relationships with key financial institutions in Singapore and across the region,” said White & Case partner Baldwin Cheng, Regional Section Head, Asia-Pacific Corporate, Finance & Restructuring. “Xander adds materially to our Asia-Pacific banking team, which is tier one ranked in Greater China and Japan, and he will play a particularly important role as we continue leveraging our capabilities in Southeast Asia.”

White & Case partner Eric Berg, Head of Asia-Pacific, said: “Xander’s arrival is a further demonstration of our ongoing pursuit of the Firm’s strategic growth priorities in Asia-Pacific. A combination of lateral additions and internal promotions have added ten new partners in the region over the past year, and these lawyers have strengthened our strategically key disputes, finance and M&A practices in Australia, China, Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore.”

Disparity warning as solicitors react to prosecution fee increase

Criminal defence practitioners may have to take direct action if the government fails to fix a pay disparity that will be made worse by revised fees announced for prosecution advocates, a practitioner group chief has warned.

On Friday the CPS unveiled a package of revised fees for prosecution advocates which it believes addresses concerns over unused material and trials involving multiple defendants. However, the news received a cool reception from the defence community.

Bill Waddington, chair of the Criminal Law Solicitors Association, said he was pleased to see money dripping into the severely underfunded criminal justice system.

‘However, this payment is for prosecution work and does nothing to assist the publicly funded defence system which has been cut to the bone over years with slice after slice being imposed by respective governments. It is now time for politicians to take the crisis in the criminal justice system seriously before it is completely destroyed,’ he said.

He said: ‘This exacerbates a pre-existing problem. For instance CPS costs are recovered according to a notional rate of £69 per hour whereas defenders do so against a benchmark rate of only £45 per hour, less than a CPS paralegal. If a local authority prosecutes the case they can recover as much as £110 per hour.’

Troman, a solicitor and higher courts advocate at London firm Powell Spencer & Partners, said there is ‘ample evidence’ of a recruitment and retention crisis in criminal defence work. ‘Many solicitors train in private defence practices but, once they have gained experience, look to secure a position at the CPS or else leave the profession. This trend will increase.’

LCCSA members ‘are growing impatient with the inertia surrounding the criminal legal aid review and will note that this fee increase only came out following direct action‘, Troman said. ‘If that is the only language the Ministry of Justice understands then the message to this side of the profession is clear’.

The ministry is reviewing criminal legal aid fee schemes. Work has been accelerated on five areas, including unused material – however, the review will not be finished until late 2020.

Brexit and the implications for your Intellectual Property Rights

What will the Brexit mean for your intellectual property (IP) rights? Will Britain leave the European Union (EU) without a deal? Or will the Prime Minister manage to get the British Parliament to vote in favour of a Plan B-deal? The Brexit will have consequences for trademark rights, design rights, copyright and patent rights that involve the UK and the EU. Start prepping to protect your IP before Brexit!

The Brexit does not just impact organizations doing business in or with the UK from a commercial trade perspective (e.g. customs and import). You should also think about the ‘crown jewels’ of your organization (e.g. trademark rights, design rights, copyrights or patent rights) covering the European Union.

Brexit will impact every company having intellectual property, licenses and distribution agreements within the EU or UK scope.

Although the uncertainty about the Brexit remains, you should know that whatever happens, you should start preparations. For instance, what happens with the UK coverage of your EU trade mark and design registrations? Should you amend the territorial scope in your intellectual property contracts? A mere reference to the ‘EU’ may become difficult to interpret. This blog outlines the potential implications concerning your intellectual property rights following a Brexit.

Impact of Brexit on European Trade Marks and Designs

EU trade marks and designs are granted by the EU Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO). Currently, companies and individuals owning a registered EU trade mark or design have their trade mark or design right protected across all EU member states including the UK.

After the Brexit, existing EU trade mark and design registrations will no longer include protection in the UK. However, even in case of a ‘no deal-scenario’, the UK government ensured that the rights in all existing registered EU trade marks and designs will continue to be protected and enforceable in the UK by providing an equivalent trade mark or design registered nationally in the UK.

If you have pending applications for trademark or design rights in the EU at the Brexit date, you may refile your application with the UK Intellectual Property Office under the same terms for a UK equivalent right. For a period of 9 months from exit, the UK government will recognize filing dates and claims to earlier priority and UK seniority recorded on the corresponding EU application.

Impact of Brexit on Copyrights

Various international treaties (such as, the Berner Convention and the WIPO Copyright Treaty) govern the protection of copyright. Under these rules, countries provide cross border copyright protection. These rules are luckily not dependent on the UK’s membership of the EU. As a consequence, copyright protection in the UK for EU protected works will largely remain unchanged.

What about database rights and other EU specific IP legislation?

The EU copyright system is based on EU legislation so it only extends to EU member states. Although the protection rights under EU legislation will be preserved in UK law, cross-border IP protection mechanisms will be different. For example, in the event of a no deal-Brexit, there will be no obligation for EU member states to provide database rights to UK businesses. As a result, owners of UK database rights may find their rights unenforceable in the EU. So companies may need to consider other forms of protection for their databases.

Impact of Brexit on Patents and supplementary protection certificates

Only a few areas of UK patent law are derived from EU legislation. Probably the most important issue here is patented pharmaceutical products and chemical compounds. EU law provides for an additional period of protection after a patent has lapsed, the so-called ‘supplementary protection certificate’.

In addition, EU law provides for compulsory licenses to be granted for UK manufacture of a patented medicine for export to a country with a public health need. Also, EU law demonstrates that certain studies, trials and tests using a patented pharmaceutical product will not be regarded as an infringement of the patent.

Luckily, regardless of the Brexit, any relevant EU legislation (including its implementation in UK law) will remain. This means that the supplementary protection certificates, compulsory licenses and exempted studies and trials will be kept under UK law.

What about the Unitary Patent?

Under the European patent regime, a European patent application essentially forms a bundle of national applications. Each application needs to be validated per EU member state. The Unitary Patent will be one inseparable right covering 26 EU countries. The UK is one of those 26 countries. They ratified the Unitary Patent system only in April 2018 which indicates their desire to be part of this system in spite of Brexit.

However, the Unitary Patent protection cannot be separated from the general principle of the EU’s Internal Market. As a consequence, and especially in the event of a ‘no deal-Brexit’, it is questionable whether the Unitary Patent protection will remain applicable to the UK once it has left the EU. If not, it means that businesses seeking patent protection in the UK will still need to commit to the national UK patent system.

Exhaustion of IP rights after Brexit

Another topic for your business to consider, is the so-called exhaustion of intellectual property rights. ‘Exhaustion’ limits intellectual property rights. Once an IP protected product has been legitimately put on the market anywhere in the EU, the IP rights (e.g. prevent the resell or other commercial use) over such product can no longer be exercised because these rights are exhausted.

In a ‘no deal-scenario’, products rightfully placed on the UK market after Brexit, will not be considered exhausted in the EU. As a result, if your company exports products from the UK to the EU you may still require the IP owner’s consent.

To discuss potential effects of the Brexit on your IP rights, please do not hesitate to contact Lukas Witsenburg from Penrose. Email: l.witsenburg@penrose.law or telephone: +31 (0)20-240 0710.

Murray Energy files for bankruptcy as U.S. coal decline continues

Murray Energy Corp, one of the largest privately-held U.S. coal miners, whose founder is an outspoken supporter of President Donald Trump, became the latest in a string of coal companies to file for bankruptcy on Tuesday as generators shift to cleaner-burning natural gas and renewable energy.

As part of a restructuring, founder Robert Murray, a Trump ally and climate change denier, will step down as chief executive and a lender group will take on more than 60% of about $1.7 billion in claims.

“Although a bankruptcy filing is not an easy decision, it became necessary to access liquidity and best position Murray Energy and its affiliates for the future of our employees and customers and our long-term success,” Robert Murray said in a statement.

The bankruptcy comes even after the Trump administration weakened or eliminated dozens of environmental regulations that Murray and other executives had called burdensome for the coal industry.

Early in the Trump presidency, Murray presented the administration with a wish list of environmental regulations he wanted slashed as coal companies have struggled due to growing use of renewables and cheap natural gas.

Eight other coal companies have filed for bankruptcy over the last two years as natural gas has taken over as the primary fuel for U.S. power plants, while coal’s share of generation has collapsed.

The United Mine Workers of America said its members are preparing to fight for their wages and benefits should Murray seek relief from its obligations during reorganization.

“We have seen this sad act too many times before,” said UMWA President Cecil Roberts. “But that does not mean we will sit idly by and let the company and the court dictate what happens to our members and our retirees.”

West Virginia’s Democratic Senator Joe Manchin said an additional 14,000 miners were at risk of losing their healthcare benefits and 82,000 pensions are under threat, which “underscores the urgent need” for Congress to pass legislation to protect miners’ benefits.

Coal’s share of U.S. power generation is expected to fall to 22% in 2020, compared with roughly 25% this year. As recently as 2003, coal accounted for half of the country’s electricity generation, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

Wynne Lawrence

Climate change: A City lawyer’s perspective

After Thursday’s event, ‘Climate change and the law’, senior associate Wynne Lawrence explains how Clyde & Co is helping its clients prepare for a greener future

“Corporate clients are increasingly aware of the risks climate change poses to the way their businesses operate, as well as the opportunities for whole new areas of business to open up, as we move towards a more climate-resilient and low-carbon economy,” says Wynne Lawrence, a senior associate in Clyde & Co’s London office. “A growing body of international regulations and national laws, fuelled, in part, by changing attitudes toward climate science and policy, is presenting new opportunities for lawyers in assisting clients navigate the rapidly changing risk landscape.”

In response to this shift in focus, Clyde & Co launched a cross-practice area climate change resilience initiative to help advise clients on the new challenges they face. The group, headed up by Clyde & Co partner Nigel Brook, spans sectors including insurance & reinsurance, shipping, aviation, tech, energy & natural resources and global trade.

“I got involved in 2016 following a speech by the Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, to the insurance market Lloyd’s of London”, insurance & reinsurance specialist Lawrence explains. “Carney highlighted, among other things, the severe threats posed by climate change to the financial sector. So, with this in mind, we started working to build our knowledge around the potential issues, particularity with regards to the insurance sector. Clyde & Co’s climate risk and resilience group has grown and expanded internationally and across practice areas.”

The group’s focus over the past two years or so has been to provide guidance on climate-related risk management and regulatory issues, including through the firm’s online ‘Resilience’ hub, which hosts firm reports, articles, explainers and even a podcast featuring Lawrence and Brook.

Lawrence, who will be speaking at Thursday’s panel event, ‘Climate change and the law — with Clyde & Co’, continues:

“Through our climate risk consultancy, we assist clients in identifying risks posed by climate change to their businesses, supply chains, assets and infrastructure. This includes risks and opportunities associated with the shift towards a low carbon economy, as well as liability risks, the prospect of legal claims by those suffering losses due to climate change.”

The heightened awareness, which stems, in part, from a societal shift to combat the growing threat of climate change, will likely result in other big legal players launching similar initiatives, predicts Lawrence. “It’s inevitable that others will follow. Climate change, unfortunately, isn’t a problem which is going to go away — so there will continue to be a need for legal guidance,” she says.

There’s also been an upturn in climate-related litigation, notes Canadian-born Lawrence, who studied International Relations at the University of Toronto before relocating to London to complete a masters at the London School of Economics.

Find out more about training at Clyde & Co

A recent Clyde & Co report, ‘Climate change: Liability risks, a rising tide of litigation’, describes how over 1,200 climate change cases have been filed in more than 30 jurisdictions to date. The first wave of legal action, Lawrence explains, is targeted predominantly at governments and municipalities over their alleged failure to comply with their international environmental commitments.

One such example of this can be found in Pakistan, where a Karachi farmer challenged the government’s alleged failure to control air pollution. The High Court later ruled that the government must disclose details of what it was doing to address the problem in the country, which in turn led to Pakistan’s environmental protection agency installing air quality monitors and warning factories to add air cleaning filters to smoke-emitting chimneys.

This upturn in action is also partly in response to the way the courts, particularly in the US, are now looking at environmental issues as a legal problem as opposed to a political one, according to Lawrence. “This coupled with a greater understanding of climate risk through advancements in science has seen more and more cases come before the courts,” she explains.

Climate work aside, Lawrence was first attracted to Clyde & Co due to its strong international presence. Since joining as a trainee in 2012, she’s had the opportunity to spend time in the firm’s offices in Johannesburg, Cape Town as part of Clyde & Co’s Global Associate Programme — an international secondment initiative for its associates, and Toronto, as well as a six-month stint in Hong Kong as a trainee.

Away from the cut and thrust of corporate law, Lawrence likes to indulge in a spot of martial arts. “I did Kung Fu at school and Judo during my time at college. I am in the process of training towards my black belt in Aikido — it’s a great way to unwind at the end of the day,” she tells Legal Cheek Careers.

So what advice does Lawrence have for readers looking to follow in her footsteps and work for an international law firm? She tells us:

“Think carefully about the firms you’re applying to. Taking a focused, tailored approach to your training contract applications will be far more effective than a scattergun one. Ask yourself, ‘why do I want to work for this firm?’ and be sure you know the answer. It will be easy to spot — even at the application stage — if you’re not genuinely interested in or serious about the firm.”

Wynne Lawrence will be speaking alongside other Clyde & Co lawyers at Thursday’s ‘Climate change and the law’ event. The event is fully booked, however you can still apply to the waiting list.

Koen De Puydt

News Article by Leaders in Law Member – Koen De Puydt

Professional Liability of Intellectual professions in the Construction Sector 

Following the ten-year liability insurance for real estate projects for architects, engineering firms and contractors, which was made mandatory by the “Peeters-Borsus Law” since 1 July 2018, another insurance obligation has been introduced within the construction sector by the “Peeters-Ducarme Law” effective 1 July 2019. 

The title of this law is self-explanatory. It introduces “a professional liability insurance for architects, surveyor experts, safety and health coordinators and other service providers in the construction sector relating to construction works and amends various legal provisions regarding civil liability insurance in the construction sector”, as mentioned earlier also called the Peeters-Ducarme Law. 

peeters-law_buildings_2.jpg

This title shows that this law has in principle a larger scope than the Peeters-Borsus Law. Where the latter applies primarily to contractors and architects in the context of housing projects and for works that require the intervention of an architect, the Peeters-Ducarme Law introduces a professional liability insurance for all intellectual professions within the construction sector, with regard to all construction work. 

Consequently, the Peeters-Ducarme Law does not apply to contractors, but it applies to all kind of real estate work (and therefore not only with regard to housing projects). Thus, as a result of the execution of all real estate works, the principal will enjoy this protection regardless of the final destination of the property or the possible intervention of an architect. 

Compulsory insurance coverage cannot be lower, per claim, than:

  • € 1,500,000 for damage resulting from physical injuries;
  • € 500,000 for the total material and immaterial damage;
  • € 10,000 for the objects entrusted to the insured by the principal.

The law also provides for a posterior coverage on the basis of which the liability for claims must be covered if the claim is filed within three years after the cessation of the activities of the insured service provider . 

Although it could be expected that the Peeters-Ducarme Law has a larger scope than the Peeters-Borsus Law, we must conclude that it is largely eroded by the exceptions that are provided for in respect of the damage that the insurance must cover. 

For example, Article 5 of the Peeters-Ducarme Law states that damages are not covered if it is the consequence of a failure to comply with one or more contractual obligations or if damages resulting from environmental degradation, claims relating to an inadequate budget, or disputes in relation to fees and expenses.

These exceptions erode the potentially extensive coverage provided by the Peeters-Ducarme Law significantly and therefore the latter offers less protection than might be expected at first sight. 

The Peeters-Ducarme law has been published yesterday (26 June 2019) in the Belgian Official Gazette and will enter into force on 1 July 2019. 

Peeters Law (to be soon Seeds of Law) will be happy to provide you with the necessary advice or assistance in this matter. Please contact us via info@seeds.law or by telephone on +32 (0)2 747 40 07.

Koen De Puydt – Toon Delie

Real Estate and Construction Law    Professional Liability     Professional Liability insurance     Intellectual professions     construction sector     architect surveyor expert    safety and health coordinator

City lawyers need to embrace their inner entrepreneur

Ahead of tomorrow’s event, ‘Life on the frontline of the global economy’, White & Case counsel Catherine Andrews looks back on her career in capital markets

Despite fears that global economic growth is slowing, investment into emerging infrastructure markets remains buoyant. According to White & Case counsel Catherine Andrews, the demand for increased spending on roads, ports and energy facilities often follows a so-called “infrastructure funding gap”, where governments look to institutional investors to enable them to realise their extensive energy and infrastructure requirements. Bridging this funding gap, however, is costly and requires external advice and structuring, as Catherine explains:

“There’s only so much funding a government can give for an energy or infrastructure project. So, there’s always a need for private investment and financing — regardless of the state of the global economy.”

As a capital markets lawyer specialising in infrastructure, Catherine advises government entities and corporations on accessing the international capital markets to raise the required funds by way of a bond issuance (effectively a form of debt security). This type of transaction gives investors a steady return of interest and principal over a prescribed period of time, and provides government entities and corporations with a viable and cost effective way of funding large projects as an alternative or complementary source of funding to traditional bank loans. Catherine, along with her team, help prepare the underlying legal documentation, including a bond prospectus which “drills down into the detail” of the project and explains the transaction to investors.

In the past year, London-based Catherine has represented a number of high-profile oil and gas and infrastructure clients from the Middle East issue bonds worth billions of dollars. Africa’s capital markets, too, are seeing heightened activity. “Africa is a key area of focus for White & Case — huge infrastructure is on the agenda,” says Catherine, who’s currently advising a Nigerian oil and gas company on its debut capital markets issuance.

But this buoyant practice area remains “extremely sensitive” to shifting geopolitics and market confidence Catherine explains. “The difficulty is that when you’re having to access the markets at a time where there is underlying turbulence or uncertainty, a number of uncontrollable external factors can have an immediate negative impact on market conditions on any given day. This means that ultimately, issuers can be forced to agree to a higher rate of interest on the bonds to be issued in order to successfully close a deal with investors, or risk waiting for market conditions to improve before closing that can cause an unlimited amount of delay.”

Amid ongoing US-China trade tensions, and an increasing use of economic sanctions by governments worldwide, capital markets lawyers must remain aware of what is going on in the world and where the introduction or expansion of sanctions legislation could impact a transaction. “Sanctions were hardly mentioned when I qualified but are now a big part of every transaction we do,” says Catherine, who studied modern history at the University of Oxford.

Being proactive in advising clients aligns with the entrepreneurial mindset typical of lawyers at leading US law firms, such as White & Case. Catherine explains: “It’s about being able to pre-empt challenges and offer advice before market developments hit news headlines, so you can immediately ring up your client and say, ‘I don’t know if you’ve seen this, but it may impact you. Would you like me to prepare some advice for you on this?’”

This readiness to act stems in part from Catherine’s experience of the 2008 financial crash. “I qualified in September 2008 — Lehman Brothers collapsed two months later. The international credit markets were effectively frozen. For us lawyers, it was an extremely difficult time,” recalls Catherine.

The crash signalled an end to the economic boom and the seemingly endless supply of work for City lawyers. “When I entered law, I saw it as a job for life. You could go in, train at a big firm and then you’re set up with a ‘guaranteed’ job. But the economic crisis was a big wake up call to everybody. Work is not guaranteed; you can’t take it for granted.”

Fortunately, Catherine qualified at a magic circle law firm in Dubai, whose economy remained relatively robust during the crisis. “In the fall-out from Lehman, the Middle East, which was traditionally seen as a risky commercial environment, was now regarded as a safe haven for bond investors, and was somewhat shielded from the financial crisis. So, while my colleagues were twiddling their thumbs back in London, I was extremely busy and cutting my teeth on some really interesting and novel deals,” she tells us.

In 2012 Catherine joined White & Case’s Abu Dhabi office, which offered greater opportunities to specialise in government-led project financing. Three years later, she transferred to the firm’s London office.

Despite the long hours and the challenge of overseeing several deals at once, Catherine enjoys the “thrill” of building new client relationships. “When you represent a client on a bond transaction, you have the ability to become their trusted legal advisor. Walking them through the steps of issuing a bond also means you get a real insight into their business, which offers up plenty of opportunities to cross-sell other legal services to them.”

So, what does it take to make it at a big US law firm? Well, according to Catherine, it’s showing that you’re a team player:

“It doesn’t matter how much you know about a practice area; always remember that you are a vital part of a team. Regardless how mundane the work you are set, a whole team of partners and associates deeply rely on you carrying out those tasks extremely well. We can teach you how documents can be drafted, but what we can’t teach is good work ethic.”

Demonstrating such diligence from the get-go is vital. “Trainees should view each seat on a training contract as a six month job interview. By the end of your seat, you should be regarded as someone that’s indispensable in the team and ultimately a safe pair of hands who can be relied on to execute at the highest level,” Catherine advises.