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The following is an excerpt from Practice Perspectives: Vault's Guide to Legal Practice Areas.

Originally based in her home country of Italy, Cristina now specializes in Capital Markets and Governance at Allen & Overy’s New York office, using her invaluable international experience to work on both European and American matters. In the European market world, Cristina assists major domestic and international financial institutions and corporations in relation to capital markets deals, including public offerings, EMTN and ECP Programs, and standalone issuances. In the U.S. sphere, Cristina helps represent underwriters and issuers across a wide range of sectors in public and private offerings of debt securities, liability management transactions, SEC-registered and exempt equity IPOs, follow-ons, and rights offerings.

Cristina has also gained experience in sustainable finance, working on green bonds, social bonds, and sustainability-linked bond issuances.

Describe your practice area and what it entails.

I am an associate within the International Capital Markets Group (General Securities) at Allen & Overy (A&O). I am admitted to practice in both Italy and New York, and this double qualification affords me a comprehensive perspective on international legal matters. 

Specifically, my practice centers on guiding clients through various aspects of equity capital markets, including initial public offerings (IPOs) and other share offerings. I am also actively involved in debt capital markets, overseeing processes related to bond issuances and other debt security issuances. In addition, my role encompasses addressing regulatory considerations associated with listing on U.S. or European stock exchanges, as well as ensuring compliance with SEC guidelines and rules. In my area of practice, there is also a special focus on project bonds and Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) matters in capital markets transactions.

What types of clients do you represent?

Financial institutions (including BofA, Goldman, JPMorgan, Morgan Stanley, CIBC, and UniCredit), multilateral development banks (such as IFC, IDB, and EIB), and private companies and corporations across sectors and industries (including infrastructure, fintech, retail, and energy, with clients such as ENEL and Stellantis).

What types of cases/deals do you work on?

Mainly capital markets transactions, both in the debt and equity world (standalone issuances or under programs, including registered deals and private placements, liability management exercises, IPOs, follow-on offerings, etc.). Sometimes my work also involves derivative transactions (such as DCHs).

How did you choose this practice area?

I actually graduated with a focus in human rights law. But this practice area sort of “chose” me after graduation, when a partner at A&O Italy was looking for a trainee with international experience. I learned all about capital markets by practice, starting from scratch.

What is a typical day like and/or what are some common tasks you perform?

You have to be able to adapt, as every day is a new challenge. Certainly, a majority of the time is spent with client correspondence, phone calls, and internal correspondence with the team (where I am usually in a position between more junior members and partners). I also, of course, spend time reviewing or drafting contracts, prospectuses, ancillary documents, and legal opinions. And then there are marketing and team activities. 

What training, classes, experience, or skills development would you recommend to someone who wishes to enter your practice area?

In my personal experience, the key is learning the job day by day. There is no specific class that can prepare you for a practice that is as deeply characterized by transactional work and cross-border coverage as ICM. As a base, however, classes, webinars, and attention to other information sources covering securities regulation are essential for managing clients’ queries and requests every day.

What is the most challenging aspect of practicing in this area?

The most challenging aspect of practicing in this area is the inherent unpredictability of financial markets. Despite meticulous preparation, external factors such as economic conditions, market sentiments, or regulatory changes can have a huge impact in our area of practice, and can lead to unexpected outcomes. This unpredictability introduces a significant element of risk and uncertainty into the practice.

What do you like best about your practice area?

In spite of the inherent unpredictability of financial markets mentioned above, the dynamic nature of the market also makes practicing in this field exciting. There is a need to be agile and responsive to the evolving landscape. Every deal becomes an opportunity for strategic execution, requiring a blend of legal acumen, financial expertise, and adaptability. The challenges and excitement create a unique and demanding environment that requires practitioners to stay abreast of industry trends, regulatory changes, and market fluctuations to successfully navigate the complexities of these financial transactions.

What is unique about your practice area at your firm?

The uniqueness of my practice area at our firm lies in the distinctive culture that permeates the work environment. One standout feature is the opportunity to collaborate with an exceptionally diverse team spread across the globe. This diversity extends beyond geographical boundaries and encompasses a rich tapestry of professional backgrounds, cultures, and perspectives.

The global nature of our cross-border transactions is a defining aspect of our practice. This global perspective not only enriches the professional experience, but also broadens the skill set of practitioners. The opportunity to work with a diverse and talented team across different continents has been a highlight of my experience and has played a pivotal role in shaping my career trajectory. It reflects a commitment to excellence and adaptability, as well as a global perspective that distinguishes our practice area within the legal landscape.

How do you see this practice area evolving in the future?

The future evolution of the International Capital Markets practice area holds exciting possibilities, particularly with the increasing integration of artificial intelligence (AI). At our firm, we have been at the forefront of this transformative wave, exemplified by our pioneering AI tool, Harvey.

AI has the potential to revolutionize various aspects of International Capital Markets. We foresee an increased integration of AI tools in routine tasks, such as due diligence, document review, etc. Our experience has shown that the use of AI can enhance efficiency by automating repetitive tasks, allowing legal professionals to focus on the more strategic and complex aspects of transactions. Building on the success of Harvey, we can anticipate the continued development of in-house AI solutions tailored to the specific needs of the International Capital Markets practice, as well as other aspects of the legal profession overall. I believe that we are well-positioned to lead in this dynamic landscape of AI-enhanced legal services.