Professional Advice about International Legal Careers

International Law Society – The University of Arizona

Marcus Hintze – Associate, Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP

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Mr. Hintze’s acuity for the law and polished language skills allowed him to pursue his passion for international work at Davis Polk & Wardwell, one of America’s top law firms. Since graduating from law school, Mr. Hintze has worked in the firm’s New York and Madrid offices, focusing on corporate matters.

 

Marcus thanks for taking the time to talk with me. Can you tell me what you do and where you do it?

I work in Davis Polk & Wardwell’s Madrid, Spain office and am an associate in our corporate department. The corporate department has various practice groups within it, and our Madrid office advises clients on a variety of corporate transactions. The majority of my work is in our capital markets practice, where we represent issuers and underwriters in both SEC registered and unregistered debt and equity offerings. Our office also advises clients on mergers and acquisitions, general corporate governance, and other matters involving US law.

 

Can you give me a day in the life for you there in Spain?

Daily life in our office can vary depending on the types of transactions we are working on and the stages of the transactions, but there are broad categories of activities that are common. A typical day can involve drafting, reviewing, and revising agreements that are part of a capital markets offering process. I also help draft and review offering documents used to sell securities, conduct documentary due diligence (reviewing a company’s documents to determine what it needs to disclose to investors in its offering documents), and participate in diligence meetings or calls with the issuers, underwriters, and auditors involved in the transactions I’m working on. In these meetings and calls, the company will present information and answer questions to help us and its other advisors better understand its business, strategy, and industry. This information helps us, the underwriters, and auditors advise on strategy and structure for the offering, as well as what should be included in the offering documents. These meetings often involve traveling to the client’s office, so we do a fair amount of travel in Spain and nearby countries in Europe.

I also spend a lot of time on the phone with clients, auditors, and lawyers who are opposite us in the transaction (either representing the issuer or underwriter of the offering, depending on our role), discussing various issues as they come up and planning the deal process.  I spend a good part of each day discussing the transactions I’m working on and issues that have come up in them with the other attorneys and staff in our office. It’s helpful to talk through questions with them, and the collaborative nature of our office is something I enjoy. And of course, as a lawyer, I also spend some time researching various points of law or past transactions to respond to client questions. Basically I spend a lot of time on the phone or in meetings, talking through points with my colleagues, and reviewing or drafting documents. That’s kind of the life.

 

Can you tell me a bit about your career path?

Davis Polk is my first job out of law school, and I started working in the New York Office. At our firm, your first decision when you start is whether you will join the corporate department or the litigation department, and I chose corporate. As a new corporate associate, you have the option to rotate through two practice groups within the corporate department. I did a rotation in our capital markets group during my first year and then worked in our mergers and acquisitions group during my second year, before moving to the Madrid office.

Going into law school, I wanted to do international corporate work. I wanted to be involved with international transactions, or any international corporate work, even though I didn’t have a very clear idea of what the day-to-day life of a corporate attorney was like. Some of that desire stemmed from living abroad when I was younger, and some of it stemmed from an international experience I had during college. Those experiences made me want to live and work abroad, but my interest in international corporate law in particular began when I took an international business law class as an undergraduate student.  My professor had previously been a partner at a large international law firm and had opened offices for his former firm in Moscow and Taiwan. He became a great mentor to me, and hearing about his practice piqued my interest and helped me make the decision to go to law school. During law school, I spent my first summer doing an externship with the firm that he had worked for in its Tokyo office.  I also tried to gear myself towards a career that involved practicing internationally, or at least practicing the type of law that would involve multinational companies, by the courses I took in law school and where I applied and interviewed.

 

What advice do you have for law students who, like you, want to get involved with international transactions and cross-border work?

I think a big thing is language ability. It’s certainly not a requirement for practicing law internationally, but if that’s a skill you have, I would do everything you can to keep it up and then use it to market yourself.  I think people tend to assume that there are more people with both language and professional skills than there are. There is a big demand in a lot of markets outside of the United States for people with US legal training who can speak the local language. I know it may be tough for law students to develop or maintain language skills during law school, but there are things you can do – keeping up on the news in the language, finding people who speak the language and keeping up conversational ability, and trying to increase your legal vocabulary are all things that are helpful.

Another thing that I think is key is just having flexibility and demonstrate that when you interview and in your resume through your work experience. Even though I haven’t ended up practicing in Tokyo so far in my career, the fact that I was willing as a law student to spend a summer there was helpful to me because it showed that I was willing to get out of my comfort zone and work in a different country and culture. I think, when you’re interviewing, showing that you have an international interest is something you can highlight and sell.

My last piece of advice is to just building your skill set and your resume, generally. The language and international experience will set you apart, but it’s a strong resume and legal skill set that opens up doors in the first instance.

 

A lot of people I’ve talked to in different international practices emphasize that writing is the most important skill one can develop. Is that the case with capital markets?

I think it’s very important. Sometimes people incorrectly assume that in corporate law writing might not be as important as in litigation because you’re not writing briefs and legal arguments. But you have to keep in mind that you’re communicating in writing all the time as a corporate lawyer.  You often need to take very complex things and put them in terms that other lawyers or clients who may not be as familiar with the subject matter can understand. If you can’t do that you’re at a significant disadvantage. Your writing skills also come into play when drafting contracts and disclosure documents, both of which can require a lot of nuanced skill and are a large part of your work as a corporate attorney.  In those types of documents, what seem like minor errors in writing could lead to major litigation down the road. Writing is definitely a key skill.

Writing is also important when you’re going through the job search process. You’re going to be communicating with potential employers via email. You’re going to be sending out resumes. Those things need to be in pristine condition. Even casual emails with people you’re interviewing with can be opportunities for you as an aspiring lawyer to show your writing skills. This doesn’t mean that they should be over-the-top or written extravagantly, but it does mean that they should be crisp and clean.

In connection with searching for a job (as well as developing your career once you have a job), I want to also stress the importance of networking. Especially in the current job climate, good networking can be a huge advantage for you.  Although the number of attorneys who practice law internationally is ever growing, it is still a small world. To the extent that you have people in that world who have an interest in your success, that can go a long way. That certainly has been the case for me. While networking can be daunting, I think it’s important to remember that lawyers like to talk about themselves.  An easy way to network is to reach out to an attorney doing something you are interested in.  If you show interest in their work, my experience is that they will most likely be eager to talk about it, and you can learn a lot and make good connections.

 

Any last words?

I would also encourage any aspiring corporate lawyer (international or not) to try to keep current on what is going on in the financial world. It may be hard with your time constraints in law school, but if you’re interested in certain markets, especially international markets, you should try to become familiar with them.  And you should keep up on the larger international financial newspapers.  Anything you can use to highlight your interests in interviews or informal networking opportunities will set you apart, and being informed can help you do that. Law firm interviews aren’t necessarily substantive or intellectually challenging. So to the extent you can talk about current events at appropriate times, you can be in the driver’s seat to show your interest and intellect and your ability to speak clearly on relevant topics. Aside from traditional newspapers, there are also some great corporate law-related blogs that can be helpful to follow and help you digest current topics more quickly in your assuredly busy life as a law student.

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This entry was posted on May 12, 2014 by .
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