Jessica Bell is an associate in corporate reorganisations
What is corporate law?
Corporate law involves advising large multinational corporations on public and private M&A, corporate reorganisations, joint ventures, major projects and securities offerings, environmental markets and fund structuring.
I specialise in corporate reorganisations work. This involves advising on and implementing complex cross-border reorganisations for large international groups of companies. This could be to allow for the sale of part of the group’s business, following the acquisition of another group or as part of an internal restructuring. Prior to a disposal, we might help a client to get ready to sell part of their business. Alternatively, after an acquisition has taken place, we might assist a client with integrating and simplifying the new post-acquisition structure. We also advise on general matters of company law and corporate governance.
Developments in the field
We have done various projects recently helping clients to prepare for life after Brexit. This has been interesting because there is so much uncertainty. It has led to some quite complex projects where clients have had to restructure their entire European operations in quite a tight timeframe.
There has also been an increased focus recently on corporate governance matters. Clients are under lots of pressure to show that they have good governance policies in place and that their boards of directors operate in a responsible and accountable manner. We have been helping clients to understand what this means in practice and how they can make sure they comply with any new requirements.
Key skills required
It is obviously important to have a good knowledge of corporate law and keep up-to-date with any recent developments. We are regularly asked complex questions of company law so it is useful to have good research and analytical skills. Clients will also want our answer to be succinct, yet accurate, so it is important to be able to give concise advice that is tailored to them (not pages and pages of legal jargon). For this reason, it is also good to have good commercial awareness, as clients will want to know that you have thought about the industry in which they operate to give advice that is relevant to them.
It is also essential to have good organisational skills. Often on large projects, there will be lots of information and documents that are constantly changing and being updated. The team will often rely on junior lawyers to be close to the detail and manage the documents. This means you have to have good attention to detail and be proactive. It is also important to be able to spot potential issues so that these can be dealt with and will not cause any delays.
In these scenarios, it is also useful to be someone who remains calm and focused in stressful situations. Often you will also be involved in lots of different projects that all have their own timelines. It is important to be able to work efficiently to make sure different projects are prioritised appropriately. If you can show you can do this well, you will often be given much more autonomy and responsibility.
As so much of what we do is team-based, it is also good to have good teamwork and collaboration skills. We work with lots of different clients who all have their own way of doing things so it is important to be able to adapt your working style to each particular client. As the work is client-based, it is also good to be a sociable person who can build genuine personal relationships with clients. If a project is busy and the team is working long hours, it is also helpful to work alongside people who are genuinely friendly and approachable because it will make the work much more manageable.
Realities of the job
The transactional nature of the work means that the workload can change from day to day. There can be tight timings if a client wants to complete a transaction within a particular timeframe. Usually the timeline of a project is planned out though (particularly in a reorganisations project) so it is easy to anticipate when these busy periods will be and plan accordingly. When the project is completed, this also means there is often some down time to celebrate the end of a successful transaction.
The type of work you will come across is also really varied. We will prepare drafts of key transaction documents and liaise with other teams to obtain their input. As the corporate team will often manage the projects, we will also spend lots of time co-ordinating different work streams and making sure key project deadlines are met. We will also be responsible for providing the client with regular updates on progress. To do so, we will have regular emails and calls with our colleagues so that we can quickly spot any potential issues. At the end of a project, we will also co-ordinate and manage execution of documents and take care of any post-completion formalities.
With 77 offices in 47 countries, and a presence in all leading financial centres, Baker McKenzie is the world’s premier global law firm. London is home to the firm’s largest office where Baker McKenzie has been well established since its opening in 1961. With more than 400 lawyers, we deliver high-quality local solutions across a broad range of practices and offer global advice in conjunction with our international offices. Our client base consists primarily of venture capital funds, investment banks, technology powerhouses and household-name brands. With a strong international client base, we have considerable expertise in acting on, and co-ordinating, complex cross-border transactions and disputes.