Comment: Global management’s strategy of promoting cooperation between the Ashurst offices around the globe is flourishing. Above all it was last year’s shakeup of the pay structure – a loosening of the strict lockstep system and introduction of a bonus system – that created clear incentives for the partners to pass on clients they acquire to other practices and offices. This became evident esp. quickly in corporate and M&A: where referrals used to be the exception, there is now a brisk deal flow between the countries. One highlight was complex work for Grammer involving the arrangement of a strategic partnership with a Chinese auto supplier, where Germany worked hand in hand with several offices in the Far East. As a consequence of the improved cooperation with the Asian practices, the firm set up a China desk in Frankfurt – thus laying the foundations for further close cooperation. The strategy’s success was also evident in the PE practice, where the lawyers frequently advise clients from the finance practice. Further proof for the successful new direction was delivered by real estate. The German practice is now more closely integrated within the international Ashurst network, as shown by work for Credit Suisse and regular client Aberdeen – no doubt one of the reasons why Ashurst managed not only to hold on to, but to intensify its connections to notable clients like Cerberus and Samsung despite the loss of two renowned real estate partners.
See also: ?Frankfurt, ?Munich.
Lawyers in Germany: 63
International network: Offices throughout western Europe, Asia, Australia and the Gulf region and small offices in New York and Washington D.C.
Developments: While the real estate practice recovered well from losses last year, Ashurst faces quite a bit of development work in finance. So far the practice has only been able to compensate for the loss of some key partners in recent years thanks to a strong team of young partners and solid middle ranks. But now a partner from these very middle ranks has left the firm for Gibson Dunn. And there had already been departures in this age group before this. Without reinforcements, Ashurst will not be able to maintain its strong market visibility in such important fields for long. It made a start in September by bringing in a securitization specialist from Baker & McKenzie to broaden its base in structured finance.
Growth will be the starting point for the next stage in Ashurst’s development. But this will have to be about quality rather than quantity, as positioning advisers in the market who export work into the global firm network will be a more sustainable strategy than rapidly ramping up associate level. This has already worked well in the M&A practice: Dr. Thomas Sacher, who joined two years ago from Beiten Burkhardt, has already put his SAP and Bosch contacts to good use. But overall the German practices still use their global firm network too one-sidedly, i.e. mainly for inbound work.
Brexit harbors further potential for a firm focusing on the financial sector, esp. in London. Positioning itself early on for advice to banks will be essential for Ashurst in the future, as bank restructuring will generate enormous demand for legal advice for years to come. And Frankfurt, the German financial center, will play a key role as an alternative EU location, esp. as a number of Japanese banks have already decided to relocate their offices to Frankfurt. This development will play into Ashurst’s hands, provided it leverages the vast potential offered by its Asian connections.
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