Award winning dealmaker tells us how she does it

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Herbert Smith Freehill’s Rebecca Maslen-Stannage is a self-confessed “classic deal addict.” She tells Australasian Lawyer that it’s a highlight for her “every time our team wins, announces, or completes a new deal.”

Doubtless this enthusiasm had much to do with her winning the award for Australian Dealmaker of the Year at the Australasian Law Awards 2019.

She deflects praise away from her individual performance and instead highlights the work of others in contributing to her win: “There were lots of great dealmakers on the shortlist. I am lucky to have a fantastic team and we had a great run of deals over the past year.”

So what does it mean to be a “dealmaker”?

“A dealmaker is a person who can find a way for parties to reach common ground, cut a deal, and then overcome any obstacles to get the deal implemented within the shortest feasible time frame,” she says.

Maslen-Stannage also says that bigger challenges she’s faced over the past year as a dealmaker involved the regulatory environment.

“It’s a changed environment with regulators, with Royal Commissions, etc., applying pressure to them. We are needing to work extra hard to provide comfort to and get the ‘OK’ we need from regulators for aspects of complex deals. At times that even means respectfully challenging regulators’ decisions, although that is never our preferred path. Directors are also more nervous. We are spending more time with boards on deals to work with them through the risks and how we can mitigate them,” she says.

While she foresees this more challenging regulatory environment to continue in the near future, it’s not something she minds.

“We don’t mind that challenge! Finding ways to overcome hurdles and get deals done is ultimately what we do and love,” she says.

When asked, as Australian Dealmaker of the Year, what advice she would proffer to young lawyers who wish to become successful dealmakers, she says: “Life as a dealmaker is crazy and unpredictable, but super-fun. Read the financial press and work on understanding the commercial dynamics of each deal, not just the legal side. Throw yourself into the heart of the deal, learn from others working on it and don’t be afraid to ask questions of the team so you can learn as quickly as possible. It can be really hard work at times, but it’s worth it.”