Yen Sum, Sidley Austin
Operating in some of the most fluid areas of finance, restructuring and funds specialist Yen Sum is rapidly becoming one of the City’s most tipped finance counsel. She joined Linklaters in 2002 before a three-year spell on Barclays’ leveraged finance team, returning to Linklaters in 2008. She describes Barclays as a key experience: ‘Being at the coalface on the business side helped shape my understanding of the evolution of buyouts and investment decision-making. It also helped to appreciate how advisers become part of the canvas.’
‘A superstar – irrespective of gender.’
Says one recruiter: ‘She’s a superstar – irrespective of her gender. She’s got it all – powerful, charming and brave. You don’t get a lot of people who are entrepreneurial in Magic Circle firms. She has a work ethic and is technical. The true modern lawyer.’ At Linklaters, in February 2016 she was asked to lead a group building the City firm’s shadow banking client-base. Sidley Austin in November 2016 pushed ahead with recruitment of Sum when she was eight months pregnant, meaning she would be on maternity leave when she first joined, a rare commitment for a transferring partner. Sum herself lauds her Sidley colleague Jennifer Brennan, who was recruited as a partner in 2017 from Linklaters, where she was an associate.
Tamara Box, Reed Smith
If female transactional counsel too often hide their light under a bushel, the Texas-bred finance star Tamara Box brings a refreshing directness to her career. After early periods working in New York and Singapore, she had successful stints at Lovells and Berwin Leighton Paisner before joining Reed Smith in 2012 to launch a London structured finance practice. The group has since grown to 26 lawyers, nine of them partners. She went on to become Reed Smith Europe and Middle East managing partner in 2016 yet the entrepreneurial Box remains one of the firm’s leading billers. Aside from those duties, she has been a vocal supporter of women lawyers in the industry.
Denise Gibson, Allen & Overy
Given its progressive reputation and early moves to support flexible working for partners, Allen & Overy (A&O) comes up surprisingly light on standout female lawyers. The glaring exception is finance star Denise Gibson, one of the most-tipped young banking partners in the City, period. The former Goldman Sachs director covers the complex end of leveraged finance. ‘She’s outstanding. Clients love her – she’s a natural business generator. Forthright style – cuts to the quick of the issues. Very well respected,’ recalls former A&O senior partner David Morley.
Gibson describes her time at Goldman as a watershed: ‘It gave me incredible access at a time when US products were coming to the European market. There aren’t many lawyers who are ambidextrous across US and European debt products and those skills became a useful USP having decided that I wanted to be a partner in private practice.’
She describes her favoured transaction as light on precedent with the loan sold to an unusual audience, summing up: ‘leveraged finance with a twist’. She adds: ‘On those deals you can think creatively and really add value.’
Also much cited is Angela Clist, for years a respected operator in A&O’s securitisation team who has handled some of the firm’s benchmark securities work. Aside from co-heading the firm’s financial institutions group, she is a member of A&O’s board.
Jayanthi Sadanandan, Latham & Watkins
If leveraged finance remains a boys’ club, one of the most notable exceptions is Latham & Watkins’ Jay Sadanandan. As one of a four-partner White & Case team that joined Latham in 2010 – in what is now seen as a watershed for Latham’s City arm – Sadanandan has built a reputation as a consistent performer against formidable competition. Aside from a busy practice for clients such as Cinven, CVC and Hellman & Friedman, she has since 2015 squeezed in the London managing partner duties as well.
Rebecca Jarvis, Linklaters
With Silk Street emerging as the home of top-quality female dealmakers, Linklaters’ restructuring and insolvency co-head Rebecca Jarvis has a superb record over a 25-year legal career. ‘An unsung hero. Formidable,’ says senior partner Charlie Jacobs. ‘Her number has been on my speed dial for the last ten years.’ Jarvis has worked on headline-grabbing deals, including the restructuring and administration of Battersea Power Station, Kodak Group’s Chapter 11 and advising the banks on the €2.2bn European Directors Group workout. Former colleague Yen Sum likewise cites Jarvis as one of the smartest operators around. The understated Jarvis pays tribute to a string of mentors in her career, including current Linklaters banking head Tony Bugg and former Linklaters restructuring veterans Richard Holden, Robert Elliott and Susan Kelly.
Linklaters banking partner Annette Kurdian received a number of credible citations in our research. The Australian-bred leveraged finance specialist has been a particular force in positioning the firm with sponsors and direct lenders like Ares and Alcentra. Also noted is Kurdian’s colleague, restructuring specialist Sarah Mook. Another standout in our research was Elisabeth Baltay, the former Bingham McCutchen partner and structured finance and restructuring specialist who joined King & Spalding in 2014. The Legal 500-ranked Emma Folds is another cited operator in Clifford Chance’s deal finance team, as is colleague, loans specialist Nicola Wherity. On reputation, Ropes & Gray’s co-head of finance Jane Rogers would be a shoo-in, but does not make the full list as much of her reputation was established before she moved to London in 2010. Another proven performer is CMS restructuring veteran Rita Lowe, who heads the firm’s banking and finance team.
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