Since its tie-up with Aussie outfit Blake Dawson nearly ten years ago, Ashurst has sat within the global mega firm bracket with a notably ‘silver circle’ feel still present in its London office. To translate the jargon: Ashurst has a strong finance speciality built around a slightly gentler culture to a magic circle firm.
This year the firm posted an impressive set of financial results with profit per equity partner (PEP) rising to £1.04 million, up a stellar 15%, whilst revenue also jumped 10% from £644 million to £711 million.
Efficiency combined with measured growth seems to be to the secret to its success. Its NewLaw division, dubbed Ashurst Advance and headquartered in Glasgow, is said to save lawyers valuable time on a range of admin tasks, while the firm has reduced office space by 6%, with the aim of reaching a 20% reduction by 2023. The firm’s consultancy arm has also expanded considerably in Australia and now has a team of over 50 consultants and seven partners.
Back in its recently refurbished London Fruit and Wool Exchange office, and now home to the firm’s newly-appointed global chair, Karen Davies, Ashurst takes on around 40 trainees each year. Training is said to entail “lots of responsibility from an early stage, good variation of work, high value and interesting deals”.
One rookie reports: “The commitment of my supervisors to my professional development has been exemplary — being able to have frequent, open conversations about what I hope to achieve in my seats and the type of work I would like to be exposed to has allowed me to have a comprehensive training experience. I have been supported in all aspects of my work whilst also being encouraged to take on responsibility and establish ownership over my own workstreams.”
Another details their experience: “Like with any TC there are ‘typical trainee tasks’ that are quite administrative like bundling, proofreading, research etc., but this is common in all TCs and totally a part of the learning process of being a trainee. I went into the TC with this in mind that not all tasks assigned to me would be glamorous. However, aside from the typical trainee tasks I have been given, interesting and stimulating work including attending client calls, business development, drafting written submissions and due diligence reports etc.”
Work/life balance is pretty standard for a City law firm, with “spikes in activity” that can lead to some spells with longer hours than others. “You rarely have to cancel plans” when not working from home, reports one insider, but “this depends on the department that you are in”. In this new post-Covid world, another trainee tells us that “as is the case for anyone working from home, it can be hard to demarcate working time from rest periods, and it is easy to hop back online to respond to late night emails”.
During ‘normal’ times, however, one trainee summarises their experience like this: “I play a lot of sport (organised on Tuesdays and Wednesdays after work) and take the hit on other evenings if need be. My superiors encourage me to leave the office as soon as I can (work permitting), which is encouraging. Some days can be long though and I’ve had a few bad Friday evenings, which is never fun. I haven’t worked any weekends though”.
Having “very friendly and approachable” partners alongside “really supportive” fellow trainees helps lighten the burden of work somewhat. Rookies are known to have a group chat and informal catch ups whilst associates/supervisors are “great at explaining tasks, offering feedback etc…”. There are even whispers that partners in global markets are “always up for a laugh”; something likely to take place at the in-office bar where everyone is entitled to two free drinks every Tuesday and Thursday. Other perks include discounted gym membership, as well as an on-site GP, beautician and physio to ease away those aches and pains. The “bright and modern” open-plan office which is apparently fitted out with a good value canteen and cafe also boasts a “really nice roof terrace” that is the perfect location for trainees to enjoy their lunch. The firm also recently bumped NQ pay to £90,000.
Meanwhile, in an encouraging sign that the firm’s tech savviness is improving, firm BlackBerrys have been replaced with iPhones while “a real push” is being made to use more automation and contract review software. “HighQ collaboration platforms, automated contracts, DocuSign expertise have all enhanced the efficiency of my work”, claims one junior. Another summarises: “Ashurst Advance is market-leading. Good IT systems for day to day work”.
On the secondment front, placements with clients are on the rise in recent times, with trainees spending time at the likes of Barclays, Credit Suisse and Goldman Sachs. Others are known to have jetted off Hong Kong, Brussels and Madrid, although some of these were carried out remotely during the pandemic.