Market participants new to the world of public finance law should start by reading our Bond Basics handbook cover-to-cover.

One valuable way in which public finance law practices can meet the challenge of offering competent, yet affordable, legal services to clients is through the greater utilization of junior associates and paraprofessionals, such as paralegals and legal assistants. In addition, as with many professions, the practice of public finance needs new professionals to fill the void left by experts who, in large numbers, have either retired or are planning to retire in the near future. This “Basics Handbook,” prepared by a subcommittee of the General Law and Practice Committee (“Committee”) of the National Association of Bond Lawyers, represents a compilation of resource materials relating to the issuance of municipal securities. The subcommittee was purposefully staffed with attorneys and non-attorneys with varied levels of experience in public finance. This Basics Handbook is intended to provide certain foundational information to serve as a resource for those beginning their work in the legal aspects of public finance (“Novices”) as well as more experienced professionals who, from time to time, would like to get back to the basics. Readers are encouraged to revisit this Basics Handbook as they gain more experience in public finance. This Basics Handbook is intended to be easily digestible by Novices in public finance on their first day, but still helpful for partners revisiting concepts in federal tax law or federal securities law. It is a basic, but insightful, reference tool which may serve as a foundation for understanding public finance transaction documents and related matters. The National Association of Bond Lawyers does not intend this Basics Handbook to set standards or provide documents for use in municipal bond transactions.

The municipal bond market is very large, with great variety and complexity. There are over 50,000 issuers. Each issuer is subject to federal, state and local laws and all manner of regulations and customs. No handbook can account for all of the differences among issuers, types of obligations and/or participants. This Basics Handbook is intended to acquaint beginners with the general complexities involved in the issuance of municipal bonds, not to explore each complexity in detail.

Readers should note that attached to this Basics Handbook is a Glossary of terms frequently used in public finance transactions. Many of these terms are used in this Basics Handbook. Readers are encouraged to refer to the Glossary often. In addition, for advanced guidance on a particular subject, readers are encouraged to review the wealth of subject matter specific documentation and resources which are available on the National Association of Bond Lawyers’ website at:

This Basics Handbook may be updated from time to time, as appropriate, to reflect changes in law or practice. It is the Committee’s desire that the materials included be as current as possible. Therefore, all readers are urged to send the Committee their comments and to offer recommendations. Neither the Committee nor the National Association of Bond Lawyers makes any warranty or representation, implied or express, as to the accuracy and completeness of all or any portion of this Basics Handbook, including, but not limited to, the Glossary.

This Basics Handbook is not intended to be used to give legal advice. It is recommended that readers seek the advice of an attorney concerning any question raised by the text and materials contained in this Basics Handbook.


Brennan K. Black

Foley & Judell, L.L.P.
New Orleans, LA

Jackie Bell

Bryant Miller Olive P.A.
Jacksonville, FL

John S. Bryan

Mitchell, Williams, Selig, Gates & Woodyard, P.L.L.C.
Little Rock, AK

Kimberly K. Bragg

Hinckley, Allen & Snyder LLP
Boston, MA

Nicolaus A. Gordon

Frost Brown Todd LLP
Louisville, KY | Columbus, OH

Krista Hall

Bryant Miller Olive P.A.
Tampa, FL

Niyala A. Harrison

Greenberg Traurig, LLP
Miami, FL

Christopher Halm, J.D.

Fordham University School of Law
New York, NY

Christie L. Martin

Mintz Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, P.C.
Boston, MA

Debbie Haskins

Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP
Tampa, FL

Matthew J. Miller

Ice Miller LLP
Columbus, OH

Andrea J. Roman

Ohnstad Twichell, P.C.
West Fargo, ND

Kareem J. Spratling, Chair

Bryant Miller Olive P.A.
Tampa, FL

Terry Snyder

McNees, Wallace & Nurick LLC
Harrisburg, PA


In 2003, the National Association of Bond Lawyers published its original Legal Assistant’s Handbook. The Legal Assistant’s Handbook was prepared by the Committee on Legal Assistants of the National Association of Bond Lawyers and was approved by the Board of Directors of the Association. The purpose of the Legal Assistant’s Handbook was to provide a compilation of resource materials relating to the issuance of municipal securities and the ways in which a legal assistant can play a role in public finance transactions. Further, it was intended to be a basic reference tool which might serve as a basis for understanding transaction documents. The primary contributors to the Legal Assistant’s Handbook were the following:

Ann. L Atkinson

Kutak Rock LLP
Omaha, NE

Carol A. Caponigro

Piper Rudnick
Chicago, IL

Elizabeth A. Dye

King & Spalding LLP
Atlanta, GA

Michelle C. Kelly
Susan McReynolds

The contributors to this Basics Handbook wish to express our deep appreciation to the authors of the Legal Assistant’s Handbook upon which this Basics Handbook is based, not least because the Legal Assistant’s Handbook served its intended purpose well as a resource for many of the contributors of this Basics Handbook early in their understanding of public finance.

In addition, many other Association members, too numerous to list here, made valuable and thoughtful recommendations. The Committee greatly appreciates support for this project provided by the Board of Directors and the contributions made by the various Association members who participated in this project. In particular, the contributors to this Basics Handbook would like to extend our sincere thanks to: Ann D. Fillingham, Dykema Gosset PLLC (2021 – 2022 NABL President), Joseph (Jodie) E. Smith, Maynard Cooper & Gale, PC (2022 – 2023 NABL President), John W. Hutchinson, Nixon Peabody LLP, Deanna L.S. Gregory, Pacifica Law Group LLP, Jon P. Jurich, Pacifica Law Group (2022 – 2023 NABL General Law and Practice Committee Chair), and Jeffery J. Qualkinbush, Barnes & Thornburg LLP, who collectively assisted in bringing this project to completion through their support, vision, and editing.

Kareem J. Spratling

Subcommittee Chair
The Bond Basics

Hudson Yards Rail Yards

Start with the Bond Basics

Average Life

Number of years to the point at which half of the principal of the bond will have been retired, which in turn gives an indication as to how fast the principal is expected to amortize.