Maintaining standards  

October 3, 2018

She’s the trusted link between the region’s key lenders and would-be borrowers. Louise Duffy explains to Simon Rushworth what it takes to broker the big deals as banking lawyer and team leader at Muckle LLP

Louise Duffy loves a problem. Solving it is more satisfying still. “I always liked the analytical side of looking at a problem and looking to solve that problem in a practical way,” says the partner at North East law firm Muckle LLP. “As a trainee lawyer, I was interested in looking at how different parties could come together to get a deal done.”

Louise and her team are the pivotal link between banks and borrowers. The glue that binds together lenders and businesses.

“It comes down to how you do things, how you come across to people and how good your service is,” adds the individual responsible for overseeing Muckle LLP’s standards.

“Sometimes the legal profession can appear to be a bit distant and to create barriers between people, which is the opposite of how we do business. We want to communicate in a clear, open and understandable way, and I try to reflect that in our standards; it’s one of the ‘firm-wide’ roles I really enjoy.”

Louise celebrates her 12th anniversary at Muckle this month.

The former Hirst High School, Northumberland, pupil and Oxford University graduate always intended to move back ‘home’ and, following successful spells with law firms in Birmingham and Leeds, the opportunity to make her mark at Muckle was impossible to resist.

“The North East coast has always been one of my favourite places to visit and I love long walks in the fresh air up there,” she says. “I love where I live and I love where I work.”

Louise continues: “Muckle has such a close relationship with its clients. As a group of colleagues, we get on so well and that’s reflected in how we approach our business. We pride ourselves on what we can give back to our clients and to the region.

“That’s important to me. When I moved back up here, Muckle immediately struck me as the right fit and I knew that there was an opportunity to build a team and do something different. Right away, I found myself working closely with a committed team that was nimble, agile and able to make decisions quickly. I felt like I was part of something that I could put my own stamp on.”

Louise had already made her mark as one of the rising stars of banking law by the time she accepted her role at Muckle in October 2006.

A former partner at Pinsent Masons and lecturer at York College of Law (now known as Leeds University of Law), she swiftly forged a reputation as a trusted adviser and project manager for lenders and businesses looking to complete key transactions across the North East and beyond.

“Earlier in my career, banking law was still a developing area,” she adds. “By the time I came back to the North East it was an established sector. It was a case of building relationships and pushing on when I joined Muckle. If you can deliver on a project and do it on time, bring parties together in the right way and ensure your approach is constructive then you build up a certain reputation.”

Louise prides herself in finding the perfect match between lenders and borrowers – working on a range of deals and fronting Muckle LLP’s innovative MiBusiness initiative with others across the firm. Devised by Muckle to support small businesses, the package provides invaluable peace of mind to companies typically turning over less than £2 million annually.

“A lot of small businesses don’t take legal advice at an early stage so they don’t have the basics required to underpin their business in the future,” Louise explains.

“MiBusiness is quite flexible for the business owners and they know exactly how it works. We add value by making introductions, putting in place their key documents such as shareholder agreements and making sure websites are compliant.”

If MiBusiness is aimed at smaller companies then Louise is equally at home brokering deals in excess of £100m. Her prominent position on a number of prestigious panels puts one of Muckle LLP’s most experienced partners in pole position to identify the action required to push through a range of key transactions.

“I work with a broad range of clients and that’s what makes the job so interesting,” adds Louise, whose team has secured panel appointments with a wide range of national and international banks and lenders.

“It’s important to establish yourself on a panel but simply being on the panel doesn’t automatically get you work,” she points out.

“The beauty of that type of work is that you can create a strong bond that can be of lasting benefit to both parties. The banks know we are passionate about supporting businesses in the region… if I can play my part and move the deal on then it’s a real positive.”

It’s little surprise that Louise and her team are recognised by industry commentators Chambers & Partners and Legal 500 as top-ranked professionals respected by lenders and borrowers alike. “It’s an independent validation of what we do,” she adds. “It’s so important that lenders feel we have the right qualities and skills and borrowers see Muckle as a firm they can trust.”

In a sector where women have historically lacked representation at a senior level, Louise continues to blaze a trail for forward-thinking females within banking law. “In the North East we do quite well when it comes to senior female banking lawyers,” she adds. “But in some cities it is still the case that the banking partners are predominantly male.

“It’s not something that I’ve been particularly conscious of and I always felt there were opportunities to progress in my chosen field. Of course, it can get hectic. Due to the transactional nature of the business, there are intense periods over a short space of time when we’re trying to wrap up a deal. But if you surround yourself with a good team and you’re able to project manage then it can work – and it does!”

Muckle LLP

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