Monica Dupont-BartonI’ve always wanted to build a European leverage finance practice from London. With the enlargement of Europe, the possibilities of investments in Europe have also increased. The leverage finance desk of every fund and every bank in London contains nationals from at least Germany, France, Italy and Spain (and possibly Holland). And yet law firms are necessarily national in their approach to delivering legal advice.

I joined Reed Smith last year to help build a truly European leveraged finance practice. I played a pivotal role in recruiting highly trained individuals that were well known in the leveraged market from Gide, Linklaters and White & CAse. I was also the driving force behind the growth of our French practice with the recruitment of a finance partner. We didn’t use headhunters so my personal reputation in the market played a key role. We were just starting off at Reed Smith so people didn’t know us. I used my personal credibility to attract both talen and clients.

One year on, we’ve worked on inovative unitranche transactions in a number of European jurisdictions including Germany, Holland, Greece, France, Norway and Italy and, most recently, we’ve extended our reach into the NY market. We’ve driven all deals from London – because our clients, the alternative capital providers are based in London. Our team in London can chair conference calls and negotiate deals in English, French, Italian or German and we’re proud of our diversity. As a result, our skills set have improved, we’re better lawyers and better business people, because we understand our client’s business and we transpose it in different jurisdictions.

I have also become member of the 30% club and have founded an informal club of women in the leverage finance and alternative capital provider industry to help support each others careers. On every panel discussion that I have chaired over the past year, I’ve ensured that at least one panellist is a woman.

Last year I have become involved with the French Chamber of Commerce in London and have organised a number of ladies’ event through the Chamber.

My biggest achievement this year is to found a team that works hard but has a life outside of work. The legal profession is a difficult one for work life balance, but we strive to introduce flexible working whenever we can and we encourage every member of the team to build a family and a life outside of work.