Inigo Esteve tells us how he helps international companies list on the London Stock Exchange and shares his advice for students seeking to get into this branch of City law.
A year after qualifying as a solicitor, an opportunity came Inigo’s way that has shaped his career ever since. “I was a newly qualified lawyer doing plain vanilla bond issuances, and then a partner came over and asked me if I had ten minutes to translate something,” recalls Inigo, who is a bilingual English and Spanish speaker.
An email translation and a strong client relationship
The translation was of an email relating to the listing of a client on the London Stock Exchange (LSE) in 2005.
“So I translated the email and then another and another. For language reasons I ended up becoming the first port of call for the client. I didn’t know what on earth I was doing as it was my first equity deal, but I had people around me who helped me, and I spoke Spanish and that made the client’s life easier,” he remembers.
Leading clients through the complex IPO process
Having played a key role in the listing, Inigo, who graduated in law from Exeter University 18 years ago, found further LSE initial public offering (IPO) work coming his way and began to carve a niche in this area of capital markets law. Now a partner, he has since advised on IPOs covering everything from care homes to oil & gas companies to tech giants, alongside many more financial institution listings.
A lawyer’s role in this process—which companies or shareholders typically undertake to raise money—leads the client through what is a very complex process. It starts with the drafting of a lengthy 300 or so page “prospectus”, containing detailed information about the company that is seeking to list, and ends with advice on the many new rules and regulations that post-IPO companies must follow.
Tailoring advice for top executives
No two listings are ever the same, and like many lawyers, Inigo enjoys the human side of the work as well as the technical. “Spending time with CEOs and CFOs of companies is always interesting; they are smart people and it is fascinating to learn about their companies. You always have to tailor your advice to their different characteristics and objectives—that’s a big part of the challenge,” he says.
A truly international career
Another notable element of the job is how international it is. When we spoke to Inigo he was just off the plane from a 48-hour trip to Dubai, where he had been meeting with a number of clients. Other companies he assists are based in locations including Africa, elsewhere in the Middle East and, of course, the UK.
Each of Inigo’s IPOs typically requires several trips—starting with the initial pitch for the work, then a strategy meeting and at least one further drafting and advisory session. As part of the IPO, shares are sold in the US, and White & Case’s US law expertise comes into play as does its vast international network. “Very often you have three sets of law—the local law of the client, English law and US law—so it’s a collaborative process making use of all our collective Firm expertise,” explains Inigo.
Three pieces of advice
For students seeking to enter the legal profession and follow a similar path to his own, Inigo has three pieces of advice. The first is to do as much work experience as you can to find out what being a lawyer is actually like. “The vacation scheme I did opened my eyes: I enjoyed it and realised I wanted to be part of this world,” he remembers.
“Do as much work experience as you can to find out what being a lawyer is actually like. The vacation scheme I did opened my eyes.”
The second related tip is to follow your passion. “I was always interested in business and finance, so I gravitated to the City—the challenge for me was finding out which part of it I wanted to work in,” he says.
And finally, Inigo urges future lawyers “to grab the opportunities you get as and when they come as you never know where they will lead to. You’ve got to take your chances.”
“Spending time with CEOs and CFOs of companies is always interesting; they are smart people, and it is fascinating to learn about their companies.”