29 October 2015
I am in-house counsel (+director + shareholder) of a baby plc that handles private equity investments and facilitates/brokers trading in bank instruments.

A typical bank instrument deal for us involves broking a $150-$500mil SBLC, MTN or PN, and we'll get circa 3% of face value in fees. On the PE side, we are raising rated bonds secured against property transactions, typical value - $100 - $300mil. For those we'd usually get about 4% fee and a small equity stake in the project.

The thing is that at the deal making stage I rarely encounter lawyers on the other side. Bankers always, but my profession - completely awol.

Its strange, the PE world is huge and growing, yet almost lawyer free - but, boy, do the lay clients need legal advice! They are frequently not that clued up (that's not to say they are stupid - far from it: hey they managed to get rich in the first place), and are usually foreign (which is relevant as it means the English legal sysytem - the system of choice for most sane people outside the US - is an unknown to them).

When lawyers are invovled they are usually one of two types: (i) someone from a small commercial firm pretending to know the business (but don't as they are just dabbling) or (ii) they are dodgy (not shady, just dodgy) American sole practitioners. Sadly, ignorance on the part of the former makes the deal harder to cut as that ignorance makes them defensive and cautious and seriously into 'butt-covering' mode, and the dodginess of the latter means I end up wading through shonky US inspired contracts and dealing with deep pools of paranoia.

It seems that my type of work is done mainly by magic circle firms here - but they all sniff at a baby plc client like us (I did try once, but the esteem we and our $250mil deal was held in was made clear by the fact that we were assigned a trainee - a trainee for a $250mil deal! I walked).

I'd be interested in hearing any other views on why we UK lawyers are missing out on this lucrative and growing line of business.