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Interview with Bobbi Acord Noland, SFNet’s New Co-General Counsel
By Michele Ocejo
Bobbi Acord Noland is a partner at Parker Hudson Rainer & Dobbs LLP in Atlanta, Georgia. As head of the Commercial Finance practice, Bobbi guides global banks, regional banks and finance companies through domestic and cross-border transactions ranging from $5 million to more than $1 billion. She has handled practically every aspect of commercial lending, from single-lender deals to syndicated facilities involving multiple lenders, borrowers, creditors and multi-tiered debt tranches. In addition, Bobbi frequently advises her clients on workouts and restructurings.
Bobbi is a Fellow of the American College of Commercial Finance Attorneys and was recognized by The Secured Lender as one of the 50 Women in Commercial Finance. She also is listed in Band 1 of Chambers USA: America's Leading Lawyers for Business for Banking and Finance and was selected by The Best Lawyers in America© as the 2018 Lawyer of the Year in Georgia in the practice area of Banking and Finance Law.
Bobbi also was recently selected to serve as Co-General Counsel for The Secured Finance Network. She has served as an adjunct professor at Emory University Law School in Atlanta. Bobbi is also the past Chair of the Business Law Section, UCC Committee of the Georgia State Bar and the Business and Finance Section of the Atlanta Bar. Bobbi is a 1986 graduate of Wake Forest University and was Phi Beta Kappa. She graduated from Wake Forest Law School in 1989 and was Editor-in-Chief of the Wake Forest Law Review.
Please tell us about your career trajectory.
I started my practice after law school at King & Spalding in Atlanta in the commercial finance area. I was attracted to a transactional practice with sophisticated clients and enjoyed the business aspects of this type of practice also. I joined Parker Hudson Rainer & Dobbs almost 30 years ago, and I still enjoy so many of the same aspects of my practice that have made it interesting over the years – i.e., the challenge of each new deal, the structuring and analysis of issues, the exposure to different types of businesses and industries and the ability to interact with a vast array of people to achieve a common goal.
You recently became the first female co-general counsel for SFNet. Please tell us why this role appealed to you and a bit about your responsibilities as co-general counsel.
I have been involved with SFNet for many years in various ways and always have enjoyed the networking, educational programs, and market knowledge that SFNet offers to its members. I was honored when Rich Gumbrecht and Jon Helfat reached out to me about the position and thought that it was a great opportunity to expand my contributions to the organization and help promote new initiatives while supporting SFNet’s on-going programs. I think that there has been an increased level of energy and engagement over the past several years in particular with the 40 Under 40 awards, the Women in Secured Finance initiatives and the focus on cultivating the next generation of leaders in our industry. As co-general counsel, I work closely with Jon Helfat and Rich Gumbrecht and the various leadership committees in providing legal guidance and analysis on various issues and also assist with strategic initiatives. The co-general counsels are engaged in important advocacy projects on behalf of the organization also and serve as a sounding board with respect to issues that confront our industry. We also gave the annual general counsel report at the virtual convention last November and look forward to providing our report at this year’s convention in Arizona.
What are a few of the most pressing legal issues facing secured finance professionals in 2021?
The challenges of 2020 arising from the pandemic continue to confront our industry in early 2021. From a legal perspective, one issue that causes concern is the level of distress that may exist in certain companies and whether the level of support received by those companies in 2020 has delayed a pending liquidity crisis for them. We also have the pending cessation of LIBOR that is going to continue to challenge lenders as the practical aspects of that continue to unfold. The regulatory landscape may change also with the new administration, and we will have to carefully track proposed legislation and regulations and the effect that these changes may have on our industry. From a global standpoint, we will continue to monitor the post-Brexit challenges for the United Kingdom and the European Union also and the effect on cross-border lending.
You’re a member of SFNet’s Women in Secured Finance Committee. Why is it important for you to be engaged with this committee?
As the first female co-general counsel, it is especially important to support the mission of the Committee. I think that the Committee has made great in-roads in engaging more and more young women in our industry. The virtual WISF Conference last year was excellent, and I also enjoyed the in-person conference in New York a few years ago. When I looked around the room, I was amazed at how many young women were at the conference and how engaged they were. Relationships in our industry are so important and rewarding, and the Committee provides a great forum for networking among women in different organizations with varying levels of expertise and interests. The Committee also sponsors substantive programs that provide real-world guidance on career advancement and leadership.
With so many of us working remotely and not seeing each other face-to-face, how do you ensure you are engaged with your team and clients?
We have weekly video meetings as a team and also constantly interact with each other by phone and email. We have such a great team and everyone has pitched in to make sure that we continue to provide excellent legal services to our clients while supporting each other personally during this challenging time. I also have enjoyed reaching out to clients whether by video or phone and understanding how they are doing from a personal standpoint and the changes and challenges that they are seeing in the secured finance industry. We also have provided presentations to clients on key topics of interest and some virtual social events also.
When you step away from the office, how do you spend your free time?
My husband and I like to play golf. I made a hole-in-one a couple of years ago and everyone was shocked—I really am a bad, but lucky golfer! I also love cycling and reading and being with my friends and family – hopefully more in 2021 post-vaccine. We also love to travel and look forward to continuing our travels to new, interesting places in the future.
Michele Ocejo is director of communications for SFNet and the staff liaison to the Women in Secured Finance Committee.