Tuesday, January 27, 2015

          Q + A with Yousef Farsakh '12

          In his position at King & Spalding in Saudi Arabia, Farsakh helped win the IFN 2014 "Deal of the Year" award and is now helping to structure the agreement to erect the world's tallest building.
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          Q: Tell us about your current position with King & Spalding and what drove you toward an international practice with the law firm.

          A: I am a finance associate with King & Spalding LLP, and am currently seconded to the Middle East offices of the firm. I am based in our affiliated Riyadh, Saudi Arabia office, and often work out of our Dubai office.  Since joining the firm last year, I have spent a couple of months in our New York office, and have also visited our London office.  Our practice group is very well integrated between lawyers in these offices. 

          My area of focus is finance and debt capital markets, which includes both conventional and Islamic financing, on a bilateral, syndicated (multi-institutional), secured, and unsecured basis. We represent financial institutions and investment funds in the financing of all types of developments and projects. I decided to join King & Spalding LLP and the Middle East practice group because the volume and size of the deals I have exposure to here are tremendous. 

          The genuine demand for infrastructure and development in the region, combined with an unfathomable abundance of capital, has resulted in this region becoming one of the world’s most active finance markets at the moment.  Saudi Arabia specifically is a booming market, and is currently playing host to some of the highest value financing on the globe. Additionally, King & Spalding LLP is one of the world’s leading firms in structuring Shari’ah-compliant financings. I work with a number of partners who are recognized as industry pioneers, and whom have single-handedly developed and implemented groundbreaking investment structures in the US, Europe, and the Middle East.

          Q: How did your time in law school prepare you for an international legal career?

          A: While at UC Hastings, I had a great deal of international law experience. Following my first year of law school, I summered at The Carter Center in Jerusalem and Ramallah, and at DLA Piper in Dubai.  Following my second year of law school, I summered at Snell & Wilmer in southern California (where I spent my first couple of years of legal practice following graduation), and again at DLA Piper in Dubai. Being at UC Hastings and in the Bay Area also allowed me to become involved with the Stanford U.S.-Russia Forum, where I conducted economic cooperation related research and spent time in Moscow, Russia.  UC Hastings also served as a perfect platform for me to leverage a position as an extern with the California Supreme Court under the Honorable Justice Ming W. Chin, where I was staffed on a prominent international trade case. 

          Ironically, perhaps one of my most memorable experiences while in law school was in fact the time I spent abroad.  During the fall of 2011, immediately following the Egyptian revolution, I decided to move to Cairo in order to work with The Carter Center’s newly founded field office as a legal analyst.  The faculty and administration at UC Hastings were very supportive, and we were able to structure a six-month stay there, which was a very valuable experience for me.

          Q: Why did you decide to get into law in the first place?

          A: I studied Political Science with a focus on International Relations at UCLA, and minored in Middle East and North African Studies. When I decided to go to law school, my intention was to become a diplomat and focus on policy-making.  However, after beginning at UC Hastings, I developed an appreciation for the commercial and corporate practice of law.  After spending two summers at two different law firms, I realized that the pressures and excitements of working at a large law firm was what I wanted. Being surrounded by intelligent and sharp attorneys who are experts in their respective fields is remarkably motivational, and pushes me to hone my skills. 

          Q: What is your greatest professional accomplishment?

          A: The deal I am presently working on is the one which I am most enthusiastic about.  We have been engaged to represent our client in their endeavor to build the world’s tallest building, which will be erected in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and will stand at over one kilometer high, overtaking the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, UAE. The project is titled “Jeddah Economic City,” and will comprise of the monumental tower and an entire precinct/small city surrounding it, including retail, office, and residential build-out.  It is certainly a privilege for any lawyer to work on a financing of this magnitude, where a number of banks are extending many billions of dollars. Finance deals this large do not come about very often, whether one is practicing in the US, Europe, the Middle East, or Asia.
            
          There are a number of exciting deals I have worked on here in the region which have garnered press attention. We recently closed a transaction for Saudi Arabia’s largest franchise retailer where we structured a first-of-its-kind point of sale credit terminal receivables securitization utilizing accounts and structures in Saudi Arabia and the UK, and another deal where we represented a syndicate of banks in the UAE through a senior unsecured issuance which was the first-ever Islamic debt capital markets issuance to be structured using certificates listed on the NASDAQ Dubai murabaha platform. We won the IFN 2014 “Deal of the Year” award for both of those transactions, and were designed best law firm in structured finance.

          ***

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