James P. Patti, a partner at Mayer Brown, represents clients involved with complex, cutting-edge transactions in emerging markets that range from Brazil and Peru to Russia, Turkey, Kazakhstan and Nigeria. His work emphasizes structured finance, including cross-border securitizations and structured loans, with a strong focus on future cash flow and export-related structured transactions.
What do you find the most interesting about your practice?
The variety of clients, industries, countries, cultures and transactions. As a generalist who works on transactions in the emerging markets, I have the privilege of working with clients (both corporate and financial) in numerous countries (Brazil, Turkey, Russia, etc.) on many different types of transactions (such as loans, structured finance, project finance, acquisitions, restructurings and securities offerings). The variety is a great way to stay excited about the work we do as every deal brings new people and new challenges.
What makes a good lawyer?
The real determination as to whether a lawyer is successful or not is whether he or she has at least two of the following three characteristics — intelligence, work ethic and charisma. Of the three, intelligence is the most necessary for a lawyer to build a successful practice; however, certainly there are lawyers who succeed with just the other two and even (at least for a time) just with charisma. As our intelligence and charisma are generally what they are, a strong work ethic is the only one of these three qualities that every lawyer can hope to develop and improve.
What is the biggest legal news right now, and what is its impact?
The biggest news has to be the rapidity with which laws are expected to change as a result of the global crisis, some of which changes could dramatically affect large swaths of our economy. As many of our government leaders have caught a stronger-than-normal case of populism, it is very difficult to identify among the fiery public statements what tangible changes to law (well-considered or not) will be enacted. For example, will Glass-Steagall be re-created in some form? While some of the proposed rules may frighten those in the private sector, simply the uncertainty as to what the rules will be on things like financial services and health care complicate everyone’s ability to make plans for the future. As so many legislators have legal backgrounds, it is my hope that they will draft new laws in as thoughtful a manner as I am sure they did when practicing law for their own clients.