Legal associates: Your time is now

brickfieldBy brickfield01/15/20213 Minutes

With 2020 proving the fund finance sector’s COVID resistance and vaccines beginning their global deployment, the race is now on among law firms to build out their fund finance practices for the demands expected for the year ahead.

While we expect there to be a continuation of strategic hiring activity at senior partner levels, many firms are going to be particularly focused on finding new associates – and not necessarily those with specific fund finance experience.

Fast-moving firms

Law firms, by virtue of their smaller size and simpler structure, are usually better placed than banks to quickly anticipate their business needs and find the talent necessary. Fund finance practices have a good deal of control over making sure that making sure that potential standout candidates are quickly identified, and hires are made efficiently and decisively. There is nothing worse than an excellent candidate going elsewhere due to someone else making an offer quicker, and in 2021 law firms that do this best will end up with the strongest teams in the long run.

So as part of maintaining that momentum they gained in the fund finance sector in 2020, law firms building out their fund finance practices are actively seeking PQE1-PQE4 associates who are either already in fund finance, or increasingly those who have a general banking background who are sufficiently early in their careers to take on a new challenge. We find that law firms are particularly capable and willing to work with new associates on training and ensuring that their transition is effective and thorough – another sign that they are building their fund finance capabilities for the long term.

Candidates in most demand

While demand for fund finance associates will be high, so will standards. From within the sector, associates who know the ins and outs of subscription finance specifically, or have had hands-on experience in running deals, will be particularly sought after. Candidates with a general background within banking or finance law practices with two to three years’ experience at the associate level who show the kind of attitude and commitment required in a fund finance practice are also increasingly being considered.

Another factor firms will consider with associate hires is their own specialisation versus the candidates – is one on the sponsor side and the other on the lender side? If this is the case, candidates need not necessarily feel that they are a disadvantage – again, firms are willing to invest in training the right people.

The year of the associate?

Expansion means not only greater headcount, and acquiring the talent early that will be built upon by experience. Law firms with significant fund finance practices know this, and if you are an associate in the banking or lending sector, this might just be your year.