Restructuring jobs reserved for lawyers

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If you're hoping to reinvent yourself as a restructuring professional come the M&A apocalypse, you could be out of luck. Instead of washed up M&A bankers, it seems restructuring businesses are interested in hiring lawyers with insolvency backgrounds.

The last to do so was UBS, which recruited Matthew French from Lovells back in March, thereby following in the footsteps of Goldman, which hired Andrew Wilkinson from Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft in the good old days of March 2007.

UBS and Goldman aren't alone in sniffing out insolvency lawyers for their restructuring practices: Houlihan Lokey's after legal blood too.

"We're looking for lawyers who can come in as mid-level officers in the firm," says Joe Swanson, European managing director at Houlihan. "Restructuring transactions can be extremely complex legally and having a lawyer on board that can properly risk assess the impact of insolvency on a transaction structure can be very helpful in getting a deal over the finish line."

Lawyers are alert to opportunities in the banking sector. "Banks are ramping up their restructuring teams and there are only a relatively small number of places you can get the right people," says Neil Golding, a partner at Freshfields.

However, not just any lawyer will do. "Most insolvency lawyers don't have the commercial skills you'd expect of a banker," says Dee Symons, European head of financial services at Russell Reynolds. "The trick is to find someone who has the legal skills and can apply them in a commercial way."

Swanson seconds this: "Someone like Andrew Wilkinson was known to be very commercial as well as an excellent lawyer."

The good news, therefore, is that there might be a few jobs left for non-lawyers after all. The bad news is that most are at a junior level and are likely to be filled internally.