Insight

David L. Amsden on the Challenges Facing Public Finance Law

The Kutak Rock public finance attorney discusses his 2019 "Lawyer of the Year" award and the trends in his practice.

David L. Amsden "Lawyer of the Year"
Best Lawyers

Best Lawyers

March 7, 2019 03:14 PM

For David L. Amsden, 2019 “Lawyer of the Year” award winner in Georgia for Public Finance, success in his practice area comes down to more than just an understanding of the law—a working knowledge of how finance operates, and what various transactions truly mean for his clients, is crucial. “In addition to having a deep knowledge of state and local law, securities law, and tax law, a good public finance lawyer should understand the business side, the basic economics, of each transaction,” Amsden says. “I also think it is important for public finance attorneys to understand that while we work on deals every day, many of our clients only sporadically enter the capital markets. They look to us to remain calm and assist them in understanding the various nuances of each transaction or each new regulatory change.”

Amsden is the vice chair of Kutak Rock, the firm he has been with for nearly four decades. “I was fortunate enough to start my career with Kutak Rock back in 1982. At the time, Kutak was one of the only preeminent public finance -oriented firms without a New York presence. I started with the housing group at Kutak and the housing space has formed the bulk of my practice ever since.” In that time, he has lined up achievements both in and out of the courtroom: Amsden served as disclosure counsel to the State of Georgia during a $1.4 billion transaction; was bond counsel for the City of Atlanta; and is one of 11 to sit on Kutak Rock’s executive committee for firm management.

Even the most experienced attorneys, however, face challenges. For Amsden, the greatest impediment to public finance law is its reliance on a tax code that can always change. “To a large degree, the public finance practice is a creature of the internal revenue code and the ability of political subdivisions to access capital markets through the benefits of tax exemption. As a result, the practice is subject to changes in the tax code that restrict the ability to access those markets or otherwise make the transactions less attractive to investors. The elimination of advance refundings and changes in corporate tax rates had fairly significant impacts on the markets in 2018.”

Despite this, Amsden knows what’s needed of him and who his work is ultimately serving: his clients. “A good public finance attorney knows when to draw the line and when to compromise as you are putting a transaction together.” If public finance is a balancing act, Amsden knows how to walk the line with grace.

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