The following is an excerpt from Practice Perspectives: Vault's Guide to Legal Practice Areas.
Kristopher S. Villarreal, Partner—Corporate (2023)
Kris has a highly prominent finance practice counseling clients through complicated negotiations and closing high-stake deals. He regularly represents financial institutions in a wide range of domestic and cross-border large-cap and middle-market transactions, including leveraged-cash flow and asset-based credits, investment grade financings, acquisition financings, syndicated and private credit transactions, club and bilateral deals, unitranche loans, first and second lien loans, refinancings, and dividend recapitalizations. He also has experience representing lenders in debtor‑in‑possession financings, restructurings, and workouts, as well as representing corporate borrowers in a variety of financing transactions. Kris’ deals cover a variety of industries, including consumer goods, energy, healthcare, insurance, media, software, and telecommunications, among others.
For more information about Kris’ practice, please refer to:
Describe your practice area and what it entails.
My practice focuses on assisting clients with complex finance transactions, which entails structuring, negotiating, and closing domestic and cross-border financings and restructurings, including distressed lending, across several different industries. It requires that I continuously remain aware of the evolving deal terms in the market so that I can consistently address any concerns my clients may have when protecting their interests.
What types of clients do you represent?
I advise on a range of sophisticated and market-defining lending facilities for the largest banks, financial institutions, and private credit funds that invest in the large-cap and middle markets. For example, I was on the team representing Blackstone Credit, Ares Corporation, PSP Investments Credit II USA LLC, and a group of other lenders on the consummation of the unitranche debt financing of Thomas Bravo’s acquisition of Stamps.com. At the time of its closing, the unitranche debt financing served as the largest ever of its kind. Some of my other clients include Barclays, Bank of Montreal, J.P. Morgan, Morgan Stanley Private Credit, and Jefferies.
What types of cases/deals do you work on? (Please feel free to share actual cases/deals.)
As a finance attorney, my practice focuses on acquisition financings, leveraged finance, and other syndicated lending and private credit transactions.
Examples include the representation of:
- The administrative and collateral agent under the term debtor‑in‑possession credit agreement for Revlon.
- The administrative agent on the investment grade financing for the purchase of American National Group by Brookfield Asset Management Reinsurance Partners.
- The first and second lien administrative and collateral agent in connection with the acquisition financing for Brightstar Capital Partners’ acquisition of AAA Partners, Inc.
- A group of lenders and the administrative agent in connection with the acquisition financing for Veritas’ acquisition of CAES Space.
How did you choose this practice area?
During law school, I had an opportunity to become a summer associate at a large law firm and worked in a few different corporate practice areas. I was drawn to the finance practice because of the fast pace of the deals and the excitement of negotiating complicated terms. I enjoyed working with financial institutions and the complexity of the types of agreements that required a deep understanding of market knowledge and the overall business objective for each client. Knowing that clients rely on me to develop a strategy and negotiate on their behalf so that they are successful in realizing their goals is truly rewarding.
What is a typical day like and/or what are some common tasks you perform?
In my practice, one day is never like another. I very often find myself having to be flexible when managing my schedule. Some days, I spend all of my time on the phone discussing new transactions with clients and negotiating terms with opposing counsel. Other days, I may spend the majority of my time drafting and reviewing documents. Of course, there is always the need to regularly connect with clients with respect to ongoing deals, general advice they need, and market conditions. In addition to working with clients and growing my practice, I mentor and train junior attorneys so that they can have the knowledge to not only be excellent lawyers for our client base, but also so that they have meaningful careers for themselves.
What training, classes, experience, or skills development would you recommend to someone who wishes to enter your practice area?
I would recommend that anyone who wants to become a finance attorney have a basic understanding of corporate transactions, including capital markets, mergers & acquisitions, and financial restructurings. Taking a class on corporate finance can not only help with navigating terms and deal structures, but also provide insight into how clients will think about approaching a potential investment opportunity. It is also very important to have an understanding of the UCC and the law of secured transactions. Taking an entry-level accounting course can also provide valuable skills and will make the learning curve more manageable for any new finance attorney.
What do you like best about your practice area?
I enjoy the challenge and excitement that comes from finding solutions to complicated problems. The finance practice is dynamic and requires that I approach each deal with a new strategy to protect my clients’ legal and commercial interests through negotiation. Each deal is different and the finance practice is always evolving; this offers me the opportunity to analyze the implications and give advice that is practical and tailored to the current market and each client’s individual needs.
What is unique about your practice area at your firm?
Our practice is unique because of the breadth of our expertise in a wide variety of financing transactions in different industries and in several parts of the market. The Paul Hastings Global Finance practice group’s ability to forge longstanding client relationships is evidence of our market-leading advice and leading client service. We continue to represent the biggest and most sophisticated global banks, private credit funds, and specialty lenders in many of their most significant and complex lending transactions, including special situations and distressed lending. Our team is also regularly designated by the largest and most sophisticated private equity firms to represent lenders on their buyouts and related financing matters.
What kinds of experience can summer associates gain at this practice area at your firm?
During the summer associate program, we offer the opportunity to work on several projects with different lawyers. Given the fast-paced nature of the Global Finance practice group, summer associates might assist with a transaction from inception to closing. They could be asked to conduct due diligence, draft documentation, and participate in client meetings. Our goal is to provide summer associates with a realistic view and the true experience of being a finance associate on our team.
What are some typical career paths for lawyers in this practice area?
Paul Hastings is committed to the development and growth of the lawyers at the firm with the goal of helping each individual develop the personal career plan that they want. For some that means becoming a partner; however, for others it might result in leveraging the deep relationships we have with dozens of banks and private credit lenders to explore opportunities for an in-house counsel position.