New Zealand-born lawyer Nathan Banks founded his own firm, Banks Legal, in 2009 in Dubai, at the height of the global financial crisis
Week in life: Legal eagle lands new career amid financial crash
When Nathan Banks was made redundant as a result of the 2008 financial crisis, he had a choice: return to his home country, New Zealand, or stay in Dubai and try and find another opportunity.
After some thought, and much research, the lawyer decided to stay, and founded his own firm, Banks Legal, in 2009, at the height of the crisis. After reading up on it, he realised that downturns can be a good time to start a business, providing that they are positioned correctly. So he promoted Banks Legal as a boutique firm staffed with experienced lawyers that offers legal advice at a more competitive price point than the larger firms. And it worked. The firm now employs around half a dozen lawyers and is doing well. Mr Banks, 45, tells The National about a typical week managing the company.
Every Sunday we have a team meeting. We will go round and discuss the work we have done in the previous week and then what we have coming up as well. So it’s a chance for us all to provide input. In the afternoons I look at product development. We have a product called LexFlex that we are using with our clients. It provides assistance to businesses. We go and sit alongside them from a consultancy-type perspective and so they don’t have to employ someone full time. We have different packages they can choose from, depending on how much legal work they need. We can tailor it to their requirements as well, so it’s quite flexible. It’s been quite successful. I will do a review of how that’s working, because obviously we need to keep an eye on it and check that it is working in line with what we are charging and they are getting good value of from it as well.
I try and arrange client meetings, so I might have a coffee with a client in the morning and a catch up to see how they are going. It could be an existing or a potential client that has shown an interest. Then I might review another product, which is a health check that we do for our clients. We check and make sure that their legal structure and licensing is fit for their business, because we find that a lot of people set up businesses and just go 100 miles an hour, so they outgrow their legal structure and licensing.
I have a couple of transactions [ongoing] in terms of mergers and acquisitions. So I will work through bits and pieces that are at the early stage of a deal, in terms of due diligence. They might be selling and an interested party might want to come in and have a look at their business, so I will make sure they have the documents in place to protect their interests from a confidentiality perspective. And then I have a couple of deals at the moment, which are beyond that stage. We are drafting the documentation and are in the negotiation phase of putting together the transaction documents, a purchase agreement and stuff like that. That is getting back to the core legal [stuff], getting behind the desk, getting behind the computing and going through it and drafting with your clients.
We are doing quite a bit around Dubai Expo 2020 by assisting companies that are looking to invest in the region, to come out here and set up. And so we get enquiries on a regular basis to say, ‘We want to do business in the UAE. What’s our best corporate structure?,’ ‘What do we need to be aware of?’ We have a set of questions that we ask off the back. We put
together an upfront piece of advice to say there might be a couple of options you guys can look at here and it could be free zone based, it could be a branch, it could be an limited liability company. It could be using an investment company to hold their interests, depending on where they want to go with it.
I get together with our marketing lady and we might spend a couple of hours looking at everything imagine from a marketing perspective – different clients, how we can cross sell, our potential clients. How we can our clients and try to do different business with them? How we can refine our existing services packages for our clients? And a lot of it is cost drive, too, looking to make things more cost efficient for clients, to make sure we are streamlining things to ensure that we can remain competitive in the market from a cost perspective and pricing point.
I like to keep Friday as a family day. We might bike ride with our daughters while the weather is nice round the community. Then we could have breakfast and head down to the beach and try to have a day with the girls. Then we might have a barbeque in the evening. On Saturday I like to prepare for the week ahead and tie up a few loose ends from the previous week.