This year Ashurst announced a second year of double digit profit per equity partner (PEP) growth and saw a simultaneous rise in revenue as the good times returned to City law. It’s quite a turnaround from the two consecutive years of decline that followed the City giant’s 2012 merger with Australia’s Blake Dawson.
Ashurst’s PEP now stands at a chunky £743,000, up by 11% on the 2017 figure of £672,000, while 2018 revenue is £564 million, a rise of 4% on last year’s £541 million. There’s a corresponding buzz around the place, heightened by excitement at the firm’s forthcoming to move into a fancy new office in the Spitalfields area of the City of London in 2019. “I’ve heard great things about the new building!” one trainee tells us.
Although Ashurst now sits within the global megafirm bracket following the Blake Dawson tie-up – which has given it a major presence in Asia – in London its ‘silver circle’ roots remain. To translate the jargon: Ashurst has a strong finance speciality built around a slightly gentler culture to a magic circle firm.
That helps to support excellent training – the firm received an A* in this category of the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2018 — and, once you are ready to handle it, desirable work. Trainees report being “rarely given dogsbody work” and often being “given a high level of responsibility”. But also note that “ironically, in the more technical departments the work can be less stimulating”. The firm’s Glasgow office is on hand, though, to do much of the volume work. This may account for the 2018 redundancy programme that saw Ashurst axe over 50 London-based secretaries.
Work/life balance is pretty standard for a City law firm, with an average leave time of just after eight. “You rarely have to cancel plans,” reports an insider. Another 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.”
A further trainee emphasises the big differences in working hours between departments: “At the moment my work/life balance is great, I leave at 6pm most nights. Sometimes it becomes a lot worse but my latest stay has been 5am and that has only happened twice and I have worked a handful of weekends in my two years here.”
Decent scores for social life in the Legal Cheek Survey 2018-19, alongside a “very supportive” peer group, add to the largely happy vibes. A social committee organises regular meet-ups for lunch in the summer and weekend drinks and rounders games. Other perks include gratis fro-yo after 6:30pm, complimentary membership (and entry) to institutions such as the British Museum, plus a subsidised canteen, cut price gym membership and “lots of biscuits”. There’s also a doctor, dentist, beautician and physio on site, while a “well stocked, admittedly unhealthy, snack cupboard” features fancy treats such as Kettle crisps and Green & Blacks chocolate.
Meanwhile, in an encouraging sign that the firm’s tech savvy is improving, firm Blackberrys have been replaced with iPhones while “a real push” is being made to use more automation and contract review software.
On the secondment front, placements with clients are on rise; 19% of Ashurst rookies did one in the last 12 months, with destinations including Lloyds, Credit Suisse and Amazon. International placements are slightly down – 12% of those surveyed this year report doing one – with Hong Kong the most popular destination.