Ashurst keeps profit per equity partner above £900k and holds NQ pay steady despite COVID-19 disruption

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Silver circle firm’s PEP is down 7% and NQ pay frozen as it confronts the pandemic

Ashurst has released its latest set of financial results, with partners continuing to earn in excess of £900,000 in spite of the economic uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic and NQs still on £84,000.

According to figures for the year ending 30 April 2020, average profit per equity partner (PEP) at the silver circle firm fell by 7% to £903,000. The drop contrasts with the whopping PEP boost of 31% enjoyed by partners this time last year, who saw their earnings swell from £743,000 to £972,000.

The fresh financials reveal the firm’s revenue has also slightly increased by 0.5% to £644 million.

“FY20 was a year of consolidation,” commented Paul Jenkins, Ashurst’s global managing partner. “Our aim in FY20 was to sustain and build on the strong 14% revenue growth we saw in the previous financial year and it was pleasing to see that growth continue.”

He continued:

“We were on target to achieve a higher level of growth until late January when markets in Asia Pacific, in which we now generate almost 50% of our revenue, were the first to be disrupted by the pandemic. Our other markets were impacted towards the end of the financial year. We have delivered a robust performance despite these challenging market conditions.”

The 2020 Legal Cheek Firms Most List

The fresh results come after Ashurst took steps earlier this spring to mitigate the financial impact of COVID-19. Like many outfits across the City, the firm asked some staff to work fewer hours for less pay and reduced partners’ monthly drawing by 20%.

Meanwhile, Ashurst confirmed the pay packets of its newly qualified (NQ) lawyers will remain unchanged this summer. Legal Cheek‘s Firms Most List shows NQs receive a salary of £84,000, though earnings can swell to as much as £105,000 with bonus applied.

A spokesperson for the firm said: “We always aim to attract and retain the best diverse talent. Our NQ lawyers can receive up to £105k in remuneration. We believe that this is a competitive package and we continue to monitor and review to ensure that this remains the case.”

Retuning to the world of law firm financials, magic circle duo Linklaters and Allen & Overy posted PEP figures last week of £1.61 million (down 0.7%) and £1.63 million (down 1.7%) respectively. Meanwhile, Clifford Chance confirmed yesterday that PEP was up 5% to £1.69 million.

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Bottom Line

Ashurst is a great firm. There are many great firms in the world. Looking at partner profits and associate salaries at these kind of forms will tell you something about different firms’ margins (i.e. which firms happen to have client bases more tolerant of high fees and less insistent on discounts) but tell you almost nothing about quality.



What would you say determines quality in a firm?



1. It is no longer accurate to describe Ashurst as Silver Circle. The SC comprises Macfarlanes, Travis Smith and Herbert Smith. This is not a criticism at all.

2. Ashurst is taking the interesting, and in my view very sensible, approach of specialising in certain areas: it lists these as banks and funds, energy and resources, real estate, infrastructure and digital economy. Infrastructure is the main one, however. E.g. its general corporate practice used to be one of the best in the city but now almost exclusively focuses on energy and infrastructure.

3. It has one of the best “cultures” in the City. Very few knobs working there.



Travis… ok pal



The SC is a subjective thing – yes it includes the firms you’ve listed because of their high PEPs but one could also make the case for Ashurst and HL


Chris J

If people base the firm rankings on PEP then that would mean even DLA are SC level



Rank the following: Ashurst, HL, HSF, Macs, TS, NRF


Lord Byron








Others may understandably disagree, however HSF’s global brand puts it ahead of Macfarlanes, albeit the latter may have a better corporate/PE practice.



I.e. the only practice area that matters.



Better PE practice ofc but not corporate



It very much depends on what your practice area is (or which area you’re interested in). If it’s any legal practice area for the energy sector (including oil & gas) then it’s a very different picture to what was said above.

1. Ashurst and NRF
2. HSF
3. HL
4. Macs
5. Travers

I work in energy and major projects so I would always go with Ashurst, NRF and HSF, both to work at and instruct (if I was in house). I don’t think I’ve seen Travers in an O&G deal before…

Culture wise, I think Travers and Macs would be the best firms. Very much the type of places where a lawyer could train, practice and retire at. I find that NRF, HSF, HL and Ashurst lawyers tend to lateral move more often.



Interesting you say this. Macs and Travers associates do move (albeit less often), usually in-house or US firms





Changing rooms

Didn’t read the article. Was more interested in the very shabby chic reception (ie the chairs) mixed in with the weird industrial thing behind the reception. How strange.



Good to see the firm getting back on its feet after it lost its way post crisis.

Training there back in the boom was fantastic, basically a two year bender thanks to an incredibly friendly culture but we worked hard as well.

Looking back now I don’t know how the senior associates and partners kept it up, but they unfailingly led from the front.



“ Our NQ lawyers can receive up to £105k in remuneration “

How accurate is this? And is it common to receive up to that amount as an NQ at Ashurst?



Most people get that or close to it.



It’S cALLeD aRt YOu moROniC inDivIdUaL



Trolls keep scrolling…

What are my chances of moving from Ashurst to a US (or failing that, MC) firm on qualification? Sensible answers only, please.



Depends which US firm – Latham and STB are very selective so more difficult to get in. The place K pretty much hires everyone due to significant number of departures all the time (I wouldn’t suggest this place if you’re looking to stay at a firm for more than 2 years, many also don’t even last 6 months so you’re pretty much taking your chances).


The Aesthete

Is that a photo of the reception area at Ashursts? What a jumble of styles; the backround appears to be an unfinished partition wall, with “ashurst” randomly placed on it, a reception desk that is the epitome of corporate bland (with an ugly computer screen back sticking up), and a couple of chairs that look as if they are lots in a sale of Minor Brown Furniture (property of a minor Yeoman).


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