A financial services lawyer is a lawyer who practices within the financial industry. This includes areas like retail and investment banking, derivatives, capital markets, structured finance, funds, asset management, insurance, stock brokerages and any other business that deals with the management of money.
Lateral thinking and good problem solving skills are crucial for a career in financial law. “A good background in economics and accounting helps, but getting a good job in the financial services boils down to work experience. Previous employment in the areas of banking, equity, credit derivatives, funds and capital markets will be useful,” says Johnny Hui, Manager of Robert Walters’ Legal & Compliance Division.
You will also need to think laterally because your clients are not just looking for legal advice, they are looking for someone who has a good business sense, who can look out for their interests and who will work closely with them to market their products cost-effectively and successfully.
You need to be robust as you will be dealing with traders and salespersons and liaising with compliance. Contracts are lynchpins, so you will need to spot and identify legal issues in contracts and agreements. You will be the back support for your client’s interests
A good financial services lawyer needs to be able to learn and understand new concepts quickly and work well with people from all areas of an organisation to close deals. “You need to be robust as you will be dealing with traders and salespersons and liaising with compliance. Contracts are lynchpins, so you will need to spot and identify legal issues in contracts and agreements. You will be the back support for your client’s interests,” says Hui.
Hui says that on average financial lawyers in Hong Kong work about 60 to 70 hours a week and between 80 to 90 hours during peak periods. An important aspect of financial law is paperwork as there is a substantial amount of reading and managing of information that is required. According to Mui, one drawback of financial law is that practitioners can end up becoming circled into a niche and transitioning to other areas of law can be difficult when the market is slow.
“Those with a passion for finance will do well. It’s a lucrative career with a good path for progression. The potential for transitioning from a law firm to in-house is higher for financial lawyers. Lawyers in this sector get more hands on experience and work more closely with businesses,” says Hui.
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