Interview

Coronavirus Q&A: Ropes & Gray's Tara Fisher

By Benjamin Horney
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Law360 (June 12, 2020, 3:55 PM EDT) -- In this installment of Coronavirus Q&A, a Ropes & Gray mergers and acquisitions and capital markets partner discusses how she was able to finalize three major transactions in the same week during a once-in-a-century pandemic, and provides insight on what it's like working from home with a husband who's also a lawyer.

Tara Fisher

Tara Fisher is a Boston partner in the Ropes & Gray LLP M&A and capital markets practice groups who has kept extremely busy despite the COVID-19 outbreak that caused big cities to shut down and greatly affected the volume of deals. Despite economic turmoil and an abrupt shift to working from home, Fisher was the lead Ropes & Gray lawyer for three significant transactions that were announced during the same week in late May.

Fisher led Ropes & Gray teams that advised the underwriters of biotechnology company Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. on a $11.1 billion offering and share buy-back with Paris-headquartered Sanofi SA; guided Novavax Inc. in its $167 million acquisition of Czech Republic-based Praha Vaccines, which is working on a potential vaccine for COVID-19; and counseled organ transplant therapy developer Transmedics Group Inc. on a $70 million underwritten public offering of common stock.

Fisher, 36, shared her perspective as part of a series of interviews Law360 is conducting with attorneys across the nation regarding the wide-ranging fallout of the coronavirus crisis. She discussed how she was able to handle her workload in the middle of the pandemic, what it's been like working from home with two kids and a husband who's also a lawyer, and how she got into corporate work in the first place.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

In general, how was your workload affected at first by the pandemic? Did things slow down for a bit, or were you busier than ever but with different-than-usual matters?

The pandemic has forced everyone — and all our clients — into new territory, and that was especially clear during the first few weeks of March. In terms of M&A and capital markets, there was a short slowdown, although the debt capital markets stayed strong. Early on, we were providing a lot of advice related to pandemic containment and remediation efforts. That counseling continues, alongside more typical transactional work that predated the pandemic.

Ropes & Gray has a really strong life sciences practice, so our teams are incredibly busy, and some of those deals are related to developing testing and vaccines for COVID-19. The Novavax deal, for instance, involved the acquisition of a manufacturing facility related to a potential COVID vaccine, so the pandemic has been tied into our practice in that way as well.

You helped finalize three significant transactions in a single week late last month. What were some of the challenges in getting those deals across the finish line during the pandemic? How were you able to handle the timing of three deals at once, especially right around Memorial Day Weekend?

The timing on all three deals — Novavax, an offering for Transmedics and an offering for Regeneron — all lined up. We priced the two capital markets offerings on that Tuesday, and we signed, closed and announced the Novavax deal prior to market open on Wednesday. They all ended up coming together around the same time. As deals do, they had various starting points and weren't necessarily on the same track. 

Was the week those three deals were announced particularly sleepless because you had so much going on? Or have you been able to find a way to separate work time from not-working time despite there not being a commute where you leave work and go home for the day?

Ropes & Gray is outstanding at handling highly complex M&A and capital markets deals, and we are used to handling many matters at the same time. The nature of any complex deal, especially when you're working on three simultaneously, is that there are always going to be last-minute fire drills. We're used to thriving on completing deals, working around the clock to make sure they get done. 

The depth and breadth of our life sciences practice is our advantage because many issues that come up are issues where we have decades of experience. Our partners are the best in the industry, and are my mentors and teachers. I can channel their expertise back into clients to make sure we're delivering the best results. Paul Kinsella and Pat O'Brien, who are both widely respected for their M&A, capital markets and life sciences expertise, are just two of the many partners who mentored me as an associate, and since my making partner, as peers. 

You're married to a fellow lawyer, although he works for a different firm and in a different legal area. With both of you working from home since the coronavirus pandemic started, have there been any difficulties or funny mishaps? 

My husband is a criminal defense attorney; we met at Boston College Law School. At the onset of the pandemic, we started working from home where we have our two little kids, and I'm seven months pregnant, so we're handling all that as well. Even though we're in the city, we've managed to make sure there is enough room for everyone during the day.

Ropes & Gray has made the transition to working from home really seamless. Because of that, the pandemic has had no real impact on our ability to deliver exceptional client results, even though I miss seeing colleagues day-to-day in the office.

Did you know you were going to go into M&A when you were in law school?

I knew I enjoyed corporate work, although the form it would take wasn't clear in law school. I really fell into our M&A and capital markets group when I came here. I found tremendous mentors in the group and fell in love with life sciences, especially given the strength of the industry in Boston. Seeing the impact we could have, and learning from some of the best attorneys in the industry, made Ropes & Gray a really special place to work. It's a great environment.

Do you now get any downtime to appreciate the accomplishment of notching three deals in one week during a pandemic? Or are you immediately back to working on multiple matters all at once?

I've tried to catch some downtime with my husband and our kids. It's nice to relax a little bit. It's also really gratifying to see the impact our work can have and to see those long hours end in great outcomes for our clients. But I'm already right back at it, and I'm looking forward to advising additional clients on other M&A and capital markets transactions.

--Editing by Kelly Duncan.

Check out Law360's previous installments of Coronavirus Q&A.

For a reprint of this article, please contact reprints@law360.com.

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