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

Christine Brozynski, Senior Associate—Project Finance (2022)

Christine Brozynski is a senior associate based in Norton Rose Fulbright’s New York office. Her practice focuses on the financing and development of energy projects, including debt and tax equity financings, commodity hedging arrangements, acquisitions, and project documentation. Christine earned her J.D. from Columbia Law School in 2013 and her A.B. from Princeton University in 2010.

Describe your practice area and what it entails.

My practice focuses on the financing and development of renewable energy projects. For example, a renewable energy developer trying to build a wind farm might finance the construction and operation of that wind farm with debt, tax equity, and cash equity, all for the same project. The financing parties are only paid if the wind farm is constructed and makes money. Because of this, everyone involved is really focused on every detail of the wind farm. The financings are extremely complicated, and every project is different. Additionally, the financings are highly customized to each project; there’s no such thing as cookie-cutter deals in this space.

What types of clients do you represent?

I represent renewable energy developers, banks, strategic investors, and power purchasers. One of the things I love about my practice is the variety; I’m on a different side of the deal each time, rather than working on the same side over and over. The type of transaction differs as well; one day I might be working on the debt piece of a deal, while the next day I’m working on a tax equity transaction. I might also be working on project documents or hedging agreements. There is so much variation in what we do.

What types of cases/deals do you work on?

I mostly work on wind and solar deals. For example, I worked on the first offshore wind farm in the United States: Block Island Wind, off the coast of Rhode Island. When the project was under construction, we took a boat out to the wind farm and watched the construction crew add a blade to one of the turbines. It was an incredible experience. I also work on complex power purchase arrangements that enable developers to have revenue certainty by hedging the price of their power. These agreements are very tricky and still evolving rapidly. It’s exciting to help construct something new in the market.

How did you choose this practice area?

I may be biased, but I think this is the most interesting practice area there is. The energy industry is complicated and always changing. The renewables industry is still fairly young in the grand scheme of things, but it is rapidly growing, and there are many interesting adaptation issues that arise from that. There is also a policy element to these deals, as some aspects of the industry are driven by tax credits and other incentives. I learn new things every day, and I don’t foresee a day when I will ever stop learning. It’s also nice to contribute to the fight against climate change in a very tangible way.

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

I like to think of what I do as solving puzzles. Sometimes, that manifests as drafting something tricky; other times, I’m on the phone with a client, brainstorming potential solutions to a thorny issue that came up in negotiations. No two days are the same. The craziest days are the ones where I’m closing a transaction. One of the most interesting things about my day-to-day work is how involved I am in the commercial aspects of the transaction. Because project finance is so complicated, and because we see so much of the market, our clients lean on us very heavily for business advice, not just legal advice.

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

The most helpful thing to do is to learn about the industry. There are many great resources online about renewables and trends in the energy industry. Our firm has a micro-site——that features numerous articles and a podcast covering the industry. Many regions also have networking groups that hold panels or talks from industry experts. It’s also helpful to understand the basics of finance. Some law schools offer courses on this or allow law students to enroll in corresponding courses at a nearby business school. Prior work experience in the renewables industry is helpful, but not required.

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

Many of the deals we work on are “first of their kind” deals without any precedent, whether that be offshore wind, new hedging structures, battery storage projects, or even data centers co-located with renewables projects. On these deals, it is important to think critically about the structure and potential issues. While these transactions are inevitably demanding, they are also exhilarating. It is very satisfying to contribute to something new in the market.

What is unique about your practice area at your firm?

We are very focused on internal development and associate opportunities. Our group believes that everyone, not just partners, can offer valuable insights about the market. Associates have a number of speaking and writing opportunities available to them, and they are encouraged to attend conferences. If associates are passionate or curious about a particular aspect of our practice, they are given the runway to pursue and make a name for themselves in that area. As a result, associates have a real opportunity to develop a personal brand and client base early on, rather than having to wait for a partner title.

What kinds of experience can summer associates gain in this practice area at your firm?

Our summer associates are involved with actual deal work as frequently as possible. They’ll draft simple agreements, sit in on calls, and help out with closings. It’s a nice way for them to build relationships early on in their careers. We’re always excited to see them again when they come back as associates. Also, because many summer associates have no prior experience in this practice area, we generally try to give them as much context as possible when they are helping on a deal. We give them additional training when they come back as associates, but we think it is helpful for them to start learning as early as possible.