James Brewster Market Insight, James Brewster
Squire Patton Boggs is an award-winning global law firm, working across 20 countries. The firm has operated from Birmingham city centre for more than 100 years, representing many of the region’s leading businesses and highly familiar with the nuances of the local business environment. Roy Grist is a well-regarded Legal 500 rated partner in Squire Patton Boggs’ Financial Services Practice Group at its Birmingham office. He joined the firm in December 2010 and has extensive experience in advising lenders and borrowers on a broad mix of national and international corporate banking transactions, including acquisition finance, property and development finance, asset based finance, restructurings and joint venture funding. He is also the firm’s Emerging Talent Partner for the Birmingham office.
What does a post COVID-19 world look like for Squire Patton Boggs?
Clearly, we are still living through a period of general and economic uncertainty, both locally and globally. Nevertheless, I believe that Squire Patton Boggs is well placed to deal with the challenges we face. We have a very diverse practice, with offices across the globe. We are not too reliant on any one client, sector or market. While some areas of our business have inevitably seen a decline in activity during recent months, other teams are busier than ever. Across all of our offices, Employment, Litigation, Pensions and Restructuring are all particularly hot at the moment. For those practice areas which have been a little quieter there has definitely been some evidence of green shoots in recent weeks as our clients look to take advantage of opportunities. I am cautiously optimistic. As a firm, we are also still investing in our future. I am pleased that our new intake of trainees in the UK will be starting with us as planned in September. I think that’s really positive.
What have been the main challenges for clients in your sector since lockdown?
My area of practice is debt finance. I advise borrowers and lenders. For our borrower clients the challenges they have faced have very much depended on the sectors in which they operate. The number one challenge for most businesses however has been the availability of cash. Government support schemes have obviously played a part in helping to alleviate some of that pressure. For lenders, they have had to grapple with not only supporting their customers through a very turbulent period, amidst some political pressure for them to support UK business, but also there are some other non-COVID challenges to navigate too. New insolvency legislation has introduced the most far reaching changes to UK insolvency law for a generation. Although this will provide some welcome relief for distressed businesses there are significant consequences for lenders to those businesses.
What do you envisage being the most challenging aspects of your role for the remainder of 2020?
Staying close to clients. This is a people business and in the past a large amount of our interaction with clients has been in person. Somebody once told me that you can’t do business development sitting at your desk. I think that theory has probably now been consigned to the history books! With so many people still working from home and with that set to continue, we are having to re-think the way in which we stay close to clients. We have been running webinars, hosting virtual round tables and even delivering pitches by Zoom. That will continue. I think we have been very innovative. Technology has certainly enabled us to continue to give clients a good quality service.
What are you looking forward to doing most post-lockdown?
Oddly enough, I do really miss crowds. Whether it’s going to the pub or a concert, eating out or enjoying some live sport, I do quite miss the hustle and bustle of being around lots of people. It will be nice to have some of that back in my life again. I’ll try to remember that sentiment the next time I’m squashed into a carriage on a rush hour train!