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Associate Interview: Annabel Ersser - Real Estate at Mayer Brown 01/05/2017

There's nothing we like more than giving you a real world perspective on the industry, so we took a few minutes out of Annabel Ersser's busy schedule to get the lowdown on what life is like in Real Estate Law at Mayer Brown.

Can you give us a brief overview of what Real Estate Finance is really all about?

Real estate finance is a type of secured lending, or asset backed finance. Finance is provided by a variety of banks, funds and alternative lenders to borrowers in return for a full security package which will include a legal mortgage over a property or group of properties.

Finance will be provided for a number of reasons, including as a manner of funding an acquisition, refinancing the costs of a previous acquisition or financing the costs of a development.

What are some of the daily tasks that you come across when working in this area of law?

An associate at my level will primarily be responsible for negotiating the ancillary security and finance documents as well as overseeing satisfaction of various conditions precedent to funding.

This means a significant amount of my time is spent liaising with clients and lawyers acting for the other side to ensure documents are agreed, and matters are progressed, as efficiently as possible.

Why did you choose to specialise in Real Estate Finance law?

I really enjoyed the finance aspects of my seat in real estate and was keen to pursue this side of real estate on qualification. I find the pace at which a real estate finance transaction moves exciting and I particularly like the commercial nature of the job – by the end of a financing I tend to have developed a genuine understanding of the client's business model and the nature of the underlying asset.

In your experience, what qualities or attributes does a lawyer need to work in Real Estate Finance?

I think a solid grounding in real estate law is essential in order to be a good real estate finance lawyer. In addition to this, I would expect a good real estate finance lawyer to be responsive, commercial, have good drafting skills and be able to understand the interaction between the underlying real estate asset and the financing arrangements.  

What kind of clients do you find yourself working with most?

I work primarily for sponsors/borrowers but will sometimes also act for banks. A large number of my clients are based in Hong Kong and other parts of Asia and I particularly enjoy working for these sorts of clients.

How would you describe your workload? Do busy periods alternate with lulls or is it all go, go, go?

I would say I'm normally rather busy, although I can have quiet periods if I'm in between deals and I can have exceptionally busy times when a deal I'm working on is closing or I'm working on several deals running on a similar timetable.

In your opinion, what is the most challenging aspect of working in Real Estate Finance?

I think perhaps the most challenging aspect of this job is the pace at which transactions move. It can be difficult to keep on top of multiple workstreams at times, but, having said that it's certainly part of what keeps the job interesting!

In a similar vein, what is the most rewarding aspect of working in Real Estate Finance?

Bringing a financing to a close, often after a tough few weeks, is always particularly rewarding. I also find the close interaction with clients that the job entails is rewarding and I've been able to develop some good relationships with a number of our clients.

Where do you see your career progressing from here?

I'm still starting out in my career but I'm keen to stay in private practice, keep working hard and see where that takes me!

Have you had any particularly memorable cases while working in Real Estate Finance? Can you tell us a little bit more about one?

We acted for Crosstree Real Estate Partners and AEG in relation to the £185m facility made available by Lloyds Bank plc in connection with the development of a designer outlet village at the iconic O2 arena.

This was a particularly challenging financing involving a very complicated facility agreement, multiple jurisdictions and a very tight timetable. It was a great deal to have been involved in and I always enjoy these financings as you get to see the asset develop from the ground up.

What advice would you give to aspiring lawyers looking to eventually qualify in Real Estate Finance?

I would advise any aspiring real estate finance lawyer to get as much general real estate experience as possible. I really think that having a good grounding in the underlying real estate law is crucial to be a good real estate finance lawyer and it's not something that all real estate finance lawyers have access too.

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