Pitch Best Young M&A Lawyer 2022: Josephine de Bok, Houthoff

Josephine de Bok maakt dit jaar kans op de M&A Award voor Best Young M&A Lawyer 2022.

Company: Houthoff 
Job Description: Senior Associate 
Age: 32 

What are the specialties of this talent? 
Josephine is a key member of our corporate M&A team. She specialises in private M&A transactions and advises a variety of private equity funds, listed and non-listed corporates on a wide range of corporate matters, such as M&A transactions, restructurings (carve-outs), equity investments and management investment plans in various jurisdictions. Since September 2020, she has been seconded to our London office to continue her work in international M&A transactions. Josephine has been the lead senior associate in several large transactions over the last year, including the acquisition of TBAuctions by CastikCapital, the sale of Dutch Bakery Group by Egeria, several acquisitions by Barentz (portfolio company of Cinven), the acquisition of Paro by Renewi and the acquisition of (part of) Frigo Group by I Squared Capital. Josephine is praised by clients and colleagues for her relaxed attitude, pragmatic approach, cleverness and providing that feeling that all issues can be solved. One true speciality of Josephine that makes her unique is her way of working within the internal Houthoff organisation. She is very approachable and easy to get along with. She provides her (junior) colleagues a great sense of freedom while they perform their work, but always has a complete overview of what needs to be done and readily available for any questions or to jump in when needed. She gives her colleagues self-confidence, which contributes to the personal development of these colleagues. In short, and amidst of the enormous time pressure (that is somewhat customary to large M&A-deals), she always finds ways to take the time to help the people she is working with and to make them feel heard and valued. As such, she is highly valued by all colleagues, junior and senior. This is echoed by Michiel Pannekoek, M&A partner at Houthoff: “Josephine's ambition is occasionally masked by her relaxed appearance, but she is constantly looking for improvement and always takes that extra step needed to do so. The fact that she always appears to be in control gives a lot of confidence to clients. She is extremely dedicated to both clients and office colleagues. The biggest compliment comes from associates who say they enjoy working with her because of the time she puts into educating others. As such, she is a role model for colleagues”. 

How does the talent distinguish itself from its peers? 
Josephine is genuine. She is the person everyone wants to have on their team because the team then not only performs better but also because she ensures that everyone has a good time. She always adds positive energy to the deal. Thanks to her positive attitude and way of communicating, Josephine is able to achieve quick and good results. She is intrinsically motivated to get the most out of herself and her team. Josephine is also naturally gifted with an extensive set of soft skills. As said above, her ability to give her colleagues self-confidence, is a skill that not all lawyers possess but is a skill that adds so much value to the performance of the team. Furthermore, her solution driven approach, patience, and emphasis on building a lasting relationship with her clients make her a trusted advisor. These soft skills support her extensive knowledge and help her to convince the other parties in an (legal) argument. 

What impact does the talent have within the organization? 
Younger associates look up to her and are eager to work with her, because she really looks out for them on a personal level. She is genuinely interested in their contribution and values what everyone brings to the table, thereby contributing to a positive atmosphere and team spirit at the office. No matter the circumstances, Josephine is always in for a joke and a little coffee or candy break with the other associates. With her very recognisable gait you already hear her entering the room from a very far distance. Despite her small stature, she has a big appearance and an even bigger positive impact on the team. Nowadays Josephine works from Houthoff's London office and despite the online meetings that does not stop her from knowing exactly what people are up to and is seamlessly integrated with the daily chit chat of the rest of the M&A team. She is at heart, genuinely interested and involved with the lives of her colleagues. So, luckily for the rest of the M&A team, she often visits the Netherlands and when she does you will hear her footsteps immediately through the hallway. 

What impact does the talent have outside the organization? 
As Josephine recently got married, some of us where lucky enough to attend here wedding. It was there that we got to witness the warmth and love of so many friends, family members that all spoke fondly of Josephine. It's safe to say that Josephine has a big positive impact on a lot of people outside of the office, and even within the limited time this job sometimes leaves for personal affairs, is well invested in the lives of those friends and family members. Both her brother and sister in laws' kids qualified Josephine as their all-time favourite aunt, as she manages to take care of them often in between deals. Thus, to properly qualify Josephine's impact outside of the organisation, we believe you could ask any person that is acquainted with her and that they would all say the same. As such, Josephine is also widely loved and appreciated outside of our organisation. 

To what extent does the talent make the difference to clients? 
We have questioned some clients why Josephine stands out for them. Gino Soeriowardojo from Barentz stated the following: “Josephine is naturally gifted with a grounded presence, perfectly balancing soft skills with a solution & service-oriented mind-set, dedicated to building a professional, content-driven relationship with us. She has been, and will be, instrumental to our and Houthoff’s success in M&As going forward.” According to Gordon Kushner from ECI: “Josephine has become one of ECI’s most trusted advisors when it comes to M&A-transactions in the Netherlands. Her pragmatic approach, while always looking out for ECI’s interests first, has been pivotal in helping us get deals done. She has great attention to detail, spends time learning and understanding our business and moves quickly and effectively to address the myriad of issues that arise during any transaction. As the General Counsel of ECI, I value these kinds of traits in my outside counsel, and Josephine has earned the highest rating on all of them.” 

Why does the talent deserve this nomination? 
Josephine deserves this nomination as a crowning glory to all her hard work she puts into every M&A deal and persons associated with such deal. Josephine’s strength lies in her relaxed attitude, pragmatic approach, positive energy and genuine interest in her clients and colleagues. Besides these soft skills her managerial and legal competencies are very well developed and are very promising for the future. Due to her modesty, she would never herself give credits for her accomplishments over the last few years. She deserves the nomination not only because she is a great talent, but even more so because she is great and genuine person which is highly appreciated within and outside of our firm. Her nomination will also further strengthen her -and others- in becoming an example to young and in particular female lawyers. 

Any references or recommendations from clients or (colleagues)? 
See above. 

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