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The superstar lawyers of tomorrow

Who are the most talented young legal minds? In October, pfm unveiled its list of the 30 most admired lawyers under the age of 40 working in the private funds industry. 

We launched our search for the rising stars of the private funds legal world in April 2017. Trusted contacts, industry participants and the law firms themselves nominated both colleagues and peers, and in total we were sent 129 profiles of high-achieving lawyers under the age of 40 based around the world.

Competition was stiff, which made the judging process challenging, but nominees were whittled down to a final list of 30 based on their career progress, their client base, notable work to date and their X factor – many of those on the list today are engaged in good-will work outside of their funds practice.

Here is the list in full. It includes heads of department, some of the youngest partners in the business, and the legal counsel for the biggest names in the private funds industry.

What keeps them awake at night? To find out, we interviewed five of the 2017 rising stars.

The 2017 roll of honor
Jonathan Adler, Debevoise & Plimpton
Amy Beckingham, Latham & Watkins,
Siew Kam Boon, Dechert
Marie-Laure Bruneel, Goodwin
Ellen Ching, Paul Weiss
Paul Cicero, Goodwin
Craig Cordle, Ogier
Ted Craig, MJ Hudson
Eamon Devlin, MJ Hudson
Alexandra Davidson, Clifford Chance
Sally Gibson, Debevoise & Plimpton
Peter Gilman, Simpson Thacher & Bartlett
Ana González-Linares, DLA Piper
Jarrod Huffman, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius
Michael Lampshire, Actis
Adrian Leipsic, Cleary Gottlieb
Owen Lysak, Clifford Chance
Brian McPeake, Goodwin
Mateja Maher, Campbell Lutyens
Hamed Meshki, Kirkland & Ellis
Allison Muth, Alston Bird
Stephen Newby, Herbert Smith Freehills
Ros Ni Dhubhain, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer
Dan Oates, Fried Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson
Fatema Orjela, Sidley Austin
Emma Parr, White & Case
Brett Saltzman, Kirkland & Ellis
James Sargent, Weil
Joel Seow, Sidley Austin
Johan Steen, White & Case

The big issues
What are the biggest challenges facing private equity lawyers? What compliance areas should fund managers prioritize? We gathered together five of those named on our 2017 30 Under 40 list to garner their opinions

Our 30 under 40 panel
Jonathan Adler
Debevoise and Plimpton
Ted Craig
MJ Hudson
Paul Cicero
Craig Cordle
Mateja Maher
Campbell Lutyens

What keeps you awake at night?

Mateja Maher: There seems to be a new apocalyptic news event every day nowadays, so generally worrying about the state of the world we’ve brought our one-year-old son into. It seems to be keeping him up, too.

Ted Craig: My seven month old son. And if not him, my three year old son (they’re an impressive tag team).

Paul Cicero: Mostly my young kids! Aside from that, it’s making sure that I’m doing all I can to stay ahead of the curve and keep clients happy in an increasingly competitive legal market.

Jonathan Adler: A steady stream of coffee. And at the moment, the back catalog of Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Craig Cordle: The fog-horn in St Peter Port, Guernsey. But seriously, more recently, the question of how to deal with politically motivated agendas targeting the offshore funds industry and legitimate tax structuring in offshore jurisdictions for short term gain. That alongside winning the next deal!

What was the biggest PE issue of 2017, expected or unexpected?

TC: Political uncertainty (yes, I’m avoiding use of the ‘B’ word) and the resultant economic uncertainty.

PC: Unexpected: the seemingly endless string of natural disasters affecting the US and abroad, causing investors to delay closings and rethink valuations of affected companies. Expected: uncertainty around how successful the new US administration will be in implementing its regulatory and tax policies.

CC: The ever-changing global political environment.

JA: Politics, more than has been the case in the recent past. This has shown in a number of areas – Brexit, US tax reform, what’s in store for future SEC enforcement.

MM: Leaving the hand-wringing about Brexit aside, I think the ongoing and increased regulatory and compliance burden for PE managers has been expected, along with some of the increased scrutiny of regulators more generally. Also perhaps expected but more welcome (and certainly not an issue!), it has been a pleasure to watch the secondary market flourish over the year.

What are the big challenges for the funds industry in 2018?

PC: 2018 is shaping up to be a swing year, where valuations will start to stabilize. The challenge for PE investors will be to reign in both valuations and seller-friendly deal terms as the PE market begins to cool.

CC: Ensuring that smaller players can close deals and the domination by the very large PE houses does not narrow the market too much.

TC: Increased regulation and increased regulatory scrutiny. Global tax compliance. Raising capital… and deploying capital come to think of it (I wouldn’t be surprised if larger funds with a lot of dry powder end up cancelling some commitments). Pressure on fees. Allocation. Transparency. GP/LP alignment. I could go on.

JA: Sponsors will need to continue to be agile in the face of increasing sophistication of both regulators and investors.

MM: I think there are a few – maintaining the positive momentum from the last few years; preparing adequately for Brexit and the inevitable twists and turns that accompany it and making sure that the product offerings continue the targeted and innovative trend to date.

What compliance area would you advise your clients to prioritize?

JA: The usual areas of expense allocation, investment allocation and other conflicts of interests should continue to be priorities. Two other areas where we’ll see increased focus in the near term are (1) substance requirements for offshore structures and (2) track record disclosure issues.

TC: One to look out for is the extension of the FCA’s Senior Managers and Certification Regime to all FCA authorized firms (it’s currently only applicable to banks and insurers). The shift towards personal accountability for senior staff is a big change and will mean those in positions of responsibility may be held personally accountable for failures in processes.

CC: Cybersecurity.

PC: Data security. Technology has clearly made companies more efficient and has facilitated globalization, but with that has come increased cybersecurity risks that need to be monitored.

MM: Compliance is a firm-wide endeavour now and requires the buy-in of whole team; it’s not just a back-office function. Getting the various internal functions to work together to effectively tackle the ongoing compliance burden (eg cybersecurity protections) will be vital.

How has the PE market changed since you began practicing?

PC: On the transactional side, it is risk allocation. The emergence of rep and warranty insurance, and the focus by sellers on certainty of closing has created an environment where buyers better either come to the table ready to backstop the full purchase price and self-insure for post-closing liabilities, or stay home!

JA: The industry is more diversified, more global and more complex than when I started practicing. And there is a much healthier media presence, both in terms of periodic mentions in mainstream media as well as dedicated publications like PEI and PFM that do a great job keeping dialogue alive on the latest breaking issues.

MM: It is a lot more dynamic and innovative – the market has evolved to meet the needs of ever-more sophisticated GPs and LPs. Testament to that are the wide variety of fund products and structures, the bespoke nature of many vehicles, SMAs and similar, the ongoing evolution of fund terms and the thriving secondary market.

CC: It’s a much wider asset class. Investors are more savvy and discerning, they are looking for demonstrable value creation.

TC: The development of the secondaries market. But then I would say that, wouldn’t I?