Ashurst hires professor to explore firm’s 200-year history

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By William Holmes on


Releases new book

Ashurst’s co-founder William Henry Ashurst by Thomas Goff Lupton, after Henry Perronet Briggs 1943 (credit Wikimedia)

City outfit Ashurst has commissioned a historian to tell the 200-year history of the firm, marking its anniversary this year.

Stuart Kells, adjunct professor at La Trobe University’s College of Arts, Social Sciences and Commerce in Australia, was tasked with distilling the firm’s history since 1822 into a new book titled Ashurst: The Story of a Progressive Global law Firm.

The firm was co-founded by William Ashurst who was greatly involved in his day’s radical causes of gender equality and the abolition of slavery and capital punishment.

According to Kells, the book is “an honest, rich and multifaceted record of a crucial slice of the global history of law, society and commerce”, with chapters spanning the firm’s early history in England and Australia, merit and inclusion (‘An Absolute Meritocracy’), life in the office (‘What do I do?’), and dress (‘A Truly Modern Solicitor’). There’s even a chapter on food and celebrations which is intriguingly titled ‘A Marvellous Banquet with Haggis’!

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Kells said that researching and writing the book, which will set you back around £50, was “a pleasure and a privilege”. He adds: “Seeing now the completed book—the output of a collaborative effort that extended to all corners of the world—is a great reward.”

Kells’s research included “extensive” interviews with current and former Ashurst people around the world as the book seeks to tease out the theme of change which the historian suggests has accelerated both in the firm and the legal profession over the last forty years.

Commenting on their 200th anniversary, Ashurst said: “Imagine what our London founder William Henry Ashurst would think if he could see the firm today. He and his family championed progressive ideas so he would not be surprised to see the global reach, our deep relationships with our clients, nor the changes in legal practice and technology. He would be proud of our focus on pro bono and CSR.”

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