GREENBERG TRAURIG LLP, Shareholder
After a stint as in-house counsel to a major global bank, Hilary Sledge-Sarnor joined the Century City office of Greenberg Traurig LLP as a shareholder this year.
She brings with her a background in corporate finance, as well as in the relatively niche areas of blockchain and digital assets. As part of the legal team for Japan’s MUFG Bank Ltd., Sledge-Sarnor oversaw the institution’s $8 billion divestiture from the North American market.
Earlier in her career, Sledge-Sarnor was a fellow with the Panetta Institute for Public Policy and a congressional intern for Sen. Hillary Clinton.
How did you discover your interest in law? And how did you arrive at your specialty?
My great-grandfather, who was born in 1897, was appointed by President John F. Kennedy as one of the first Black municipal court judges in Washington D.C., and he’s a legend in our family. I keep his gavel on my desk as a reminder of all the things I want to achieve in my career. The gavel even has a little plaque that says it was excavated from wood from the White House. My great-grandfather definitely sparked my interest in going into the law.
As for my specialty, after finishing a federal clerkship, I arrived in big law knowing I wanted to practice corporate law. I started my career splitting my time between syndicated lending work and working on banking regulatory and compliance matters. I fell in love with working in the finance industry, servicing those clients and their unique needs while helping them navigate regulatory challenges. While working in-house at a major international bank, I was able to blend lending, regulatory compliance and blockchain and digital assets work.
My great-grandfather definitely sparked my interest in going into law.
Greenberg Traurig LLP
Tell us about the most noteworthy or interesting case (or cases) that you’ve been involved with.
Last year, Japan-based MUFG Bank Ltd. divested from the North American retail market by selling the assets of MUFG Union Bank, N.A. to another large bank in the U.S. I worked closely with the general counsel and senior leadership in negotiating the definitive agreement and related documentation for the deal, overhauled the governance framework and supported various business lines in assigning loans and other assets.
Are any new regulations or pieces of legislation in Los Angeles or California creating new or more work for you and your practice?
Late last year, the California Commercial Financing Disclosure Law went into effect. The state’s Department of Financial Protection and Innovation now requires commercial financial lenders to provide disclosures to small businesses for certain types of transactions. This new law requires certain lenders to make additional disclosures, which will require them to work closely with counsel to ensure they are complying with this law in their documentation and procedures.
What do you envision as your next step, career-wise?
I arrived at Greenberg Traurig earlier this year, so my focus is on working with the bench of exceptional lawyers at the firm and on continuing to grow my practice. One thing that drew me to Greenberg Traurig is that the firm really encourages us to be entrepreneurial and supports its lawyers in forging their own path within the firm. In other words, it’s not a “one-size-fits-all” philosophy when it comes to building a legal practice, and I really appreciate that given that my practice spans a few disciplines. I’m looking forward to mentoring associates and contributing positively to the culture of the Los Angeles office. In my career, mentors have been invaluable to my success, and paying that support forward is integral to my own goals.
How did the pandemic affect your career, and what do you think is on the horizon for the legal industry?
The syndicated loan market has slowed down recently on the origination side, because of rising interest rates and liquidity crunches at most financial institutions. On the regulatory side, I see a trickle-down effect on the horizon with perhaps some of the regulations already placed on large banks trickling down to medium and small banks as well.
After working as an in-house counsel for a major international bank, what have you enjoyed about returning to a firm? Do you miss any part of in-house work?
I’m enjoying having ready access to the Greenberg Traurig platform, and by that I mean our human assets. There are so many knowledgeable attorneys here who are subject-matter experts, and who are just a phone call away. It’s a great resource to tap into because it means I can provide a fuller service to our clients. I do miss the hands-on work in business operational issues that was a large part of my in-house role. But a lot of my work at the bank also involved helping my internal clients sort through business and legal issues, as well as explaining the risks associated with each decision, which is similar to my practice now that I am back in big law. I have clients that span many industries, and the depth with which I am able to learn their respective businesses while working with them is extremely interesting.