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Introducing our Global M&A Practice

July 2021: Germaine Nicole Gurr is a partner in White & Case's global M&A Practice in New York. She explains what working in this fast-paced area of the law entails, how she manages her time and why junior lawyers are an essential part of her team.

"I am a partner in White & Case's global M&A Practice, specializing in mergers, acquisitions, divestitures, joint ventures and corporate venture investments. Clients rely on our advice to help them understand and assess these strategic options and to execute their most complex transactions."

A broad spectrum of clients, including global corporations

What types of clients do you represent? "I work with a variety of clients, ranging from Fortune 500 companies to private equity and financial sponsors. My clients are generally seeking advice on myriad topics, from support on a small, minority investment into a venture-backed company to a carve-out and divestiture of a business within a multibillion-dollar corporate group, where the business may be embedded in more than 20 countries around the world." 

Moving from corporate finance to the law

How did you choose this practice area? "I entered law school having worked in corporate finance for several years. As a member of a corporate finance department, I realized that I wanted to have a role to play in a company's key strategic decisions, and that a legal education combined with a background in finance could better situate me to provide corporations and financial sponsors with support and advice on their key corporate transactions."

A day in the life of a busy global M&A partner

Can you tell us about a typical working day? "I wake up around 5:00 a.m. because I find that the first couple of hours of the morning are the quietest time and allow me to gather my thoughts for the day, as well as to finalize projects, draft documents and respond to email correspondence without interruption. Typically, the rest of the morning until the afternoon is consumed with conference calls and meetings, and breaks in between that are filled working on discrete matters that need to be addressed during the working day." 

"It is always important to recharge and take breaks"

Germaine adds that, "While these meetings take up a great part of the day, they are important, especially during the recent pandemic, to keep teams connected. It is always important to recharge and take breaks throughout the workday. Following a day of calls, I generally try to take a break with my family, and I use the late evening hours—once my children have fallen asleep—to catch up on any documents or projects that may require long blocks of time to focus, similar to those matters addressed in the early morning hours."

Key skills: Problem-solving, creativity, time management

What training or skills development would you recommend to someone who wishes to enter your practice area? "One needs to learn not only how to identify issues, but, more importantly, how to solve problems, think outside the box, and be creative." She notes another key skill that lawyers need to acquire: "The most challenging aspect of practicing as a transactional lawyer is time management. A transactional practice requires a lawyer to be available around the clock when a deal is in action or in the process of signing or closing. This can be exhausting and does require a level of mental stamina to make it through with grace until the transaction signs or closes." 

A workload that ebbs and flows

However, the pace is not always so demanding: "On the flip side, a lawyer with this type of transactional practice also needs to be comfortable taking advantage of the times in which the workload may not be as intense or demanding—it's an ebb and flow. Learning how to feel comfortable and not guilty taking time when you have it available is an art that is required to maintain your physical and mental health."

The important role of junior M&A associates

What are some typical tasks that a junior lawyer would perform on Germaine's global M&A team? "Junior lawyers are truly the frontline and have incredibly important roles to play. They are often tasked with conducting due diligence, identifying issues that may arise from a due diligence review, and articulating those issues to the team in order to address them with the client and oftentimes in the documents that are being negotiated with the counterparty." 

She shares an example of a recent instance in which a junior made a significant contribution: "The junior lawyer ran a lien search that uncovered a number of tax liens on the business. The sellers had not appreciated that the company that purchased all the assets of the business would likely still be liable for those old taxes even if the sellers carved them out from its deal. We explained this to both the buyer (our client) and sellers, and required that the sellers have the liens paid off prior to the acquisition of the company by our client."