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Exciting technologies and fast paced, varied work
Project Finance lawyers Naomi and Kevin discuss their work

Project Finance associates Kevin Chen and Naomi Midha tell us about their work and why they enjoy working in this fast-paced transactional team. 

"We advise financiers or borrowers in respect of the financing, development and construction of various renewable projects including wind, offshore wind and solar. We also advise on the financing in respect of infrastructure and public-private partnerships. The lawyers in our team have the opportunity to work on different financing areas including leveraged and corporate financings, so it mixes things up!" explains Naomi.

Kevin believes it's an especially interesting area of the law: "Each project, and each financing for a project, is unique, and so negotiations and discussions surrounding the relevant documentation will vary from deal to deal. Many of these involve exciting new technologies such as grid-connected energy storage systems, and some may be based overseas, such as the various offshore wind farms in the Asia-Pacific that we've advised on."

A day in the life

He takes us through a typical working day: "I would usually have an idea of the kind of workload and tasks that would keep me occupied that day, as many of our projects run over several weeks and you quickly become familiar with the different 'stages' involved in a project finance matter. Of course, you never know what new projects may require your assistance, or if the timeline for an existing project gets fast-tracked, and so it's important to be able to adapt to changing deadlines and workloads. We hold internal 'kick-off' meetings at the start of a new matter engagement, and so it's quite a collaborative working environment." 

Naomi adds that graduates can expect to have plenty of client interaction from Day 1: "Our graduates are given a lot of responsibility to manage transactions. This is one of the reasons why I chose to settle into the area of finance because as a graduate, I was made to feel like I was adding a lot of value to the transaction and was made to feel (and was actually) responsible for major workstreams. You are given the client exposure, then it is up to you how you would like to develop it." 

Responsibility, teamwork and celebration

Kevin outlines what a graduate can expect to work on: "The typical tasks that a graduate would do include attending conference calls, drafting emails to clients and, at the relevant time for a workstream, coordinating the signing of documents." Naomi says that the close of every deal is marked with a celebration. "One of the things I genuinely love about being in my team is the opportunity to attend closing celebrations with the client for a deal you on which you have assisted. It doesn't matter what your level, partners encourage you to attend as a way of showing thanks and also give you the opportunity to interact with the client. I think this is quite unique to White & Case, as I haven't heard of my peers being given these opportunities. For example, I will be flown to Sydney to attend a closing lunch this week."

What is the most challenging aspect of practicing in this area? Kevin says that it's all in the detail. "Project finance generally, and in particular security, is quite technical in nature and so the learning curve for a junior can be steep. However, I have found that alongside the team mentoring, our training program for graduates and associates were extremely useful in providing the context and insight into project finance and related areas generally." Naomi adds, "Due to the fast-paced and sometimes demanding nature of the area of law, it's challenging to manage competing deadlines on different projects. I find however, because our team is so collaborative, it is a matter of communicating your workload effectively so that you are not overburdened." 

Advice for future lawyers

Finally, what advice do they have for anyone considering a career in project finance? "Finance is quite esoteric and technical, at the same time commercial and very fast- paced. This needs to suit your personality." Kevin agrees that it's important to know that this is an area that you want to pursue and adds, "I would also recommend rotating in other teams, and in an overseas rotation if possible, as these experiences could help better inform your decision. I would also encourage you to reach out to associates and graduates in the Project Finance team, who are more than happy to chat about what life is like as a junior in the team."

The final word goes to Naomi: "I genuinely work with some of the smartest people—who are so caring and genuinely care for my development. I have been lucky enough to be mentored by many senior women and also my partners. I genuinely enjoy coming into work every day and working with my team."

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