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Finance in Focus: Fostering a Forward-Thinking Practice

In this edition of V&E+, Vinson & Elkins Partners Caitlin Turner and Lucy Jenkins sit down for a conversation on the firm’s thriving Finance practice, the market trends they’re watching, and the career principles they live by.

Caitlin, Lucy: We’ll spend some time talking through your work and approach to it. But let’s begin with the Finance practice itself. What do you see as the key drivers of its long-term success?

Caitlin: There are many. But for me, one underpins them all — and that’s cross-practice collaboration. By this, I mean building lasting, mutually beneficial relationships with colleagues in other practices across the firm.

Our colleagues in other practices apply their knowledge, skills, and experience to matters that our practice is leading, and are available to step in to directly advise our clients as required. And we do the same for their matters and clients, too.

Clients often tell us: When they work with Vinson & Elkins, they feel like they’re cultivating a relationship with the firm — not with any one person or practice. Well, that bond is due in large part to the many bright, commercial, forward-thinking people we have here, and how deeply integrated our practices are with one another.

Lucy: Totally agree. The transactions we handle regularly leverage firmwide talent, and this integrated approach is what enables us to deliver on the capabilities that clients have come to expect of Vinson & Elkins. We believe that is why so many clients readily trust us with their key matters time and time again.

Tell us about the capabilities.

Lucy: Just to list a few: Our experience handling multifaceted transactions involving a wide range of parties, industries, and jurisdictions. Our ability to advise through the life of a financing — from idea to exit and everything in between. Our skill in seeing the optimal structure of a transaction before even getting to a document — in getting ahead of any challenges before they have a chance to arise.

Caitlin: And then there’s how comfortable we are with complex work — with crafting creative, thoughtful solutions for bespoke, high-stakes transactions. And how we tailor our advice to our clients’ unique needs, goals, and values.

Lucy: Exactly. We take the client experience as seriously as we do the quality of our work. And I think that has done a lot to distinguish us from our competitors, especially in a financing environment that has evolved so quickly in recent years.

How have you seen the environment evolving?

Caitlin: One trend we’re seeing is a greater interest in financing solutions that do not fit neatly into one category. Our practice works closely with private equity sponsors, which often tap the leveraged finance market, using debt alongside their equity capital to fund buyout and portfolio company activity. But in much of 2022 and 2023, economic headwinds substantially weakened deal activity in this market.

Lucy: So, to deploy the capital they’ve raised, some of our clients have sought alternative solutions that transcend traditional arrangements, bringing together aspects of leveraged finance, project finance, and/or corporate finance in one deal.

Caitlin: Right — and blending debt products comes with its challenges, which are heightened in the context of underwritten financing for M&A transactions.

Another really significant area of evolution has been the growth of the private credit market. Last year was tough for finance in general, but private credit funds have seen a surge in fundraising since 2020. They have been able to deploy much of this cash to finance acquisitions, and are reaching a far wider range of market participants.

Funds have become more nimble and are breaking down longstanding barriers to their involvement in transactions: For example, by removing limitations on flexible future funding through the provision of delayed draw term loans, and by partnering with commercial banks to provide revolving credit facilities.

The certainty you get with private credit has proved attractive to both companies and private equity sponsors. Yes, the terms may not be as flexible, although that is also evolving. And the pricing is often higher. But you don’t run the risk of a failed syndication, as you do in the leveraged finance market.

But now that the leveraged finance market seems to be opening back up, we should expect many direct loans to be refinanced into syndicated deals, right?

Lucy: Yes, simply because borrowers may find cheaper financing through a syndicated deal than they can through a direct lender. And that brings to mind another trend:

Direct lenders used to engage primarily in bilateral transactions. But now, at the top tier at least, they’ve become more like banks — clubbing up to provide financing in groups of six or eight, or even more on larger transactions. And most interestingly, as the products and capabilities of direct lenders and banks have converged, they’ve been known to show up together in the same club.

Direct lenders and banks historically haven’t often played on the same patch. But now that they are, financing has become much more competitive.

How about on the product side — what are you seeing there?

Caitlin: Transition bonds could be interesting, especially to many of our clients who operate in energy, including the energy transition and infrastructure.

Ah — those are the debt instruments that some companies are beginning to use to finance their energy-transition activities.

Caitlin: Right. It wasn’t long ago that sustainability-linked loans were generating a lot of hype and gaining traction in the market. That was because of the economic incentives they provide for borrowers to meet sustainability-related targets, and because — unlike with green bonds —borrowers don’t have to be operating sustainably or use the proceeds for sustainability-related purposes.

But the broader ESG backlash has since driven skepticism of sustainability-linked loans. And our sense is that, as capital providers grow more comfortable with transition bonds, more companies will begin to issue them.

Lucy: I would agree. Companies that generally aren’t considered green enough to issue a green bond, but that aspire to reduce their climate impact, can issue transition bonds to finance projects intended to accelerate their decarbonization efforts. And in doing so, these instruments open more channels to meet the growing demand for sustainable investment opportunities.

A super interesting time to be in finance. Can you talk us through your approach to work?

Lucy: Absolutely. We’re big believers in the idea that the more you know about a transaction, the better work you produce. That’s why we make sure that everyone involved in a transaction — from trainees on up — is brought up to speed on it. We want everyone involved to understand not just the piece of a transaction with which they are specifically tasked, but all of it.

To provide the best service to our clients — to add value to a process and to learn and be effective — it’s critical that each contributor to a transaction knows why the transaction matters to the client, and why their role in that transaction is important.

A lot of learning in real time.

Lucy: Indeed. The more we share our knowledge, skills, and experiences with one another, the better we become at fulfilling our individual roles. And the better we are as individual contributors, the more effective we become as a group.

We see every transaction as an opportunity to strengthen our practice for the next one — to trust people with new levels of responsibility, and to foster opportunities for professionals growth.

Very much a team-first mindset.

Caitlin: That’s the goal. No one is afraid to raise their hand — whether they have a question, are struggling with an assignment, or are underwater with other matters. No one is too busy to review something, or too proud to pick up work that’s generally performed by attorneys junior to them. On every deal, we’re in it together, and that’s a mindset we try to instill in all of our deal teams.

I love it. One more thing before we wrap up: You’ve both built impressive careers in a highly competitive industry historically dominated by men. What’s one work principle that has served you well?

Caitlin: Supporting one another’s success. You know, in competitive industries like ours, it can be easy to buy into the idea that only so many people can succeed. The idea that space at the top is limited, especially for women, and that getting there means we should be looking out only for ourselves.

But I’ve found that when you reject those ideas, you help change the narrative around them, and make space for more people to succeed. When you support your colleagues — when you wake up and make that choice every day — everyone benefits. You, your colleagues, your firm, your profession — everyone.

Lucy: So true. And I would add: being true to myself. People — and again, especially women — sometimes worry that succeeding at work will require them to change who they are. But that’s a trap, because the more people who change to fit a narrow, antiquated standard of how a leader should look and act, the less likely the standard is to change.

Yes, it’s like: If career success means burying your authentic self, can you really even call it success?

Lucy: For me, you can’t. So, I’ve always tried to embrace that authentic self — to share my views, to take up space, to ask for new challenges, to push boundaries, to question convention. Doing so can feel difficult at first, but I promise: It becomes easier with time, and it’s worth it.

I’d imagine that you also try to set these examples for others.

Caitlin: We do. And I know that I can speak for both of us in saying: We’ve been lucky enough to have opportunities in our careers, and we feel a great responsibility to pay those opportunities forward.

That often means mentorship: Helping younger colleagues identify what they want out of their careers — near- and long-term. Working with them to set goals and lay out concrete steps toward those goals. Equipping them with them with the tools they need to follow through.

You both have a wonderful enthusiasm for your work.

Lucy: Thank you. My hope is that we show that well — that we use it to inspire others and instill the same enthusiasm in them. When people care about what they’re doing, they enjoy it more. Ideas flow freely and teams thrive, leading to higher quality work and client service. It’s a hallmark of our practice, and one that we’ll continue to encourage — both from ourselves and from everyone around us — throughout our careers.

Meet the Lawyers 


Office: New York

Law School: Vanderbilt

Hometown: Winter Garden, Florida

Some favorite activities outside of work: spending time with my daughter and fur children, hiking, cooking and visiting local wineries, breweries, farm stands, and festivals

If I hadn’t become a lawyer, I would have been: I’m only a lawyer because becoming royalty didn’t work out.


Office: London

Law School: College of Law, London

Hometown: London, born and bred

Some favorite activities outside of work: spending time outdoors, running around after my children, hanging out with friends, going skiing or doing watersports, puzzling over cryptic crosswords, and learning to play golf

If I hadn’t become a lawyer, I would have been: A code breaker (in my dream life!) or a doctor (more realistically …)

This information is provided by Vinson & Elkins LLP for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended, nor should it be construed, as legal advice.