Ashurst partner Navdeep Benning discusses her career journey to date
Navdeep Benning’s advice to wannabe global finance lawyers is not perhaps what you might expect from a partner at a global law firm: “go and become a rockstar and the next best thing is global finance!”.
But, in fact, the two might actually have more in common than immediately meets the eye. Both, in Benning’s experience (being somewhat limited when it comes to being a rockstar!), tend to involve big deals, global work and travel, carefully crafted wording and strong personalities. The reason, however, the role of a global finance lawyer is perhaps bested by a rockstar is that the job also bears a great deal of resemblance to being a rockstar’s manager.
“At Ashurst, we have an extremely broad finance practice and a great reputation for our work with prestigious clients” that in Benning’s personal experience as a partner in the Global Loans Team includes acting for banks, private equity firms and other large financial institutions, and covers “everything related to fund financing” from large infrastructure projects to cutting edge ESG-focused facility agreements. With the work spanning several continents and large amounts of documentation, organisational skills, strong communication and a knack for being “very commercial”, are key requirements for being a global finance lawyer. This is where the job of a global finance lawyer becomes more like a savvy rockstar’s manager.
Fund financing has increasingly “gone mainstream” post-2008 and is especially focused on players’ reputations, Ashurst has been at the forefront of the sector’s biggest challenges and new opportunities. One big challenge is the move away from LIBOR, the forward-looking interest rate that underlies trillions of dollars’ worth of financing agreements and most likely just as many pages of documents. The firm uses its Glasgow-based NewLaw division Ashurst Advance to ensure that it can handle such large quantities of documentation as efficiently as possible.
Ashurst has also helped its clients navigate the pandemic, which Benning says has seen her department “busier than ever” and enabled non-traditional banks with strong reputations — the likes of private equity, pension and insurance funds — enter the fray as well. From a finance lawyer’s perspective this has meant more specialised and bespoke products in the finance sector. Benning gives the example of putting together the marketing prospectus with ESG principles and the facility agreement for a multi-billion-dollar fund which involved “tough negotiation and delicate drafting”.
In addition to legal work, Ashurst’s tier one Fund Finance Team (as ranked by Legal 500) provides training to clients and thought leadership to the industry. “It’s not enough to just say you are good in a certain area, you need to prove it,” underlines Benning. As well as training and thought leadership, Ashurst is also involved in important industry events, have an impressive client list and a leading presence as a benchmark for top legal practice in the sector.
So how can wannabe lawyers take advantage of all this? “We really want you to be an Ashurst lawyer through and through,” explains Benning. “We want to recruit and retain the best people, supporting them from their studies to starting their training contract and beyond.” She points to Ashurst’s array of wellbeing services, international and client secondments, career coaching mentors, leadership training programmes and much more. But most of all, Benning emphasises the importance of the people: “it’s long hours, so you need to want to spend time with the people”.
Indeed this is key to how trainees best develop at Ashurst. Benning offers this advice: “Be a magpie, take in the best aspects of those around you. It doesn’t matter what you learn in books because actual legal practice is a different kettle of fish. Throw yourself into as many different workstreams as you can, even those you don’t think you will necessarily enjoy — you never know until you try and you might be missing a great rockstar opportunity.”
Navdeep Benning will be speaking alongside other global finance lawyers at Ashurst during ‘Life as a global finance lawyer — with Ashurst’, a virtual student event taking place on Tuesday 19 October. You can apply to attend the event, which is free, now.
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