From the foundations built in our Real Estate practice to a sky-scraping career with a major global property firm.
Anna joined Clifford Chance’s London Real Estate practice in 2007, just months before the boom turned to bust as the global financial crisis hit. She remembers seeing the drama unfold at the Lehman Brothers London headquarters, which sat across the square from the firm’s offices in Canary Wharf. With the property sector quickly rebounding, her seven years as an associate saw her advising on deals involving London landmarks such as the iconic Asprey building on Bond Steet, the Broadgate development in the City and the Crystal building in the Royal Docks, now the new home of the Greater London Authority.
“You work with the best and you learn from the best,” Anna says of her time at the firm, adding that the real estate team also created a “collaborative, nurturing place to work, which grew me as a lawyer”. So, what made Anna decide it was time to go in-house? “To be honest, I wasn't really looking to move, the opportunity just landed on my desk and I was open to it”, she explains.
“Not so much a learning curve as a vertical line.”
That opportunity came in the form of a role as Vice President – Legal, Real Estate with investment funds giant BlackRock in 2014. She went for it, despite recognising that “what I knew about funds could be written on the back of a postage stamp”. What followed was, she explains, “not so much a learning curve as a vertical line. But it proved to be one of the best things I ever did because it gave me a new lease of life and, effectively, a second career”.
“An amazing opportunity to design from the ground up.”
In 2017 another opening appeared. Hines, one of the largest privately-held real estate investors and managers in the world, was looking to appoint their first legal counsel to support the business in Europe. Previously, all such matters had been run from Hines headquarters in Houston, Texas. “It was an amazing opportunity to design from the ground up what the role of the legal function in Europe should look like”, Anna explains. Quickly realising that it required more than one pair of hands, she got the backing to build a five-strong team that now covers all legal aspects of the Hines business in Europe.
A large part of her work now involves launching funds and onboarding investors, in addition to overseeing transactions. With numerous joint ventures with capital partners across Europe, it's a varied role, which Anna relishes. She sees key differences from private practice and she is now “fully integrated into the business and sees everything through from start to finish”.
“Don’t be afraid to ask questions.”
A member of our alumni network, Anna is still very much in touch with our real estate team, participating in a virtual roundtable during the pandemic. She values her many formal and informal connections with Clifford Chance.
She also draws on the firm’s expertise as external advisers, explaining that no matter how complex the issue or where in the world it is, “you can rely on Clifford Chance’s resources and expertise to get the deal done”.
Her advice to younger lawyers is to be open-minded, take every opportunity that comes your way and see where that leads. “Don’t be afraid to ask questions, be inquisitive and continue to want to learn”, she adds. Judging by Anna’s continuing success, it’s an approach that clearly works.