Six partners are set to leave Ashurst’s New York office following a restructuring of the Anglo-Australian firm’s U.S. finance practice.
Five partners will leave Ashurst this week to join Chicago-based Chapman and Cutler, with a sixth partner, Lawrence Berkovich also set to leave, though his destination is unclear.
Like Berkovich, the five partners joining Chapman and Cutler—Douglas Bird, Thomas Glushko, Steven Kopp, David Nirenberg and Patrick Quill—have practices focused on the collateralised loan obligation (CLO) market, with Ashurst opting to move away from such work.
All five partners moving to Chapman and Cutler joined Ashurst in 2009 from the latter’s former U.S. ally McKee Nelson as part of a 10-partner finance team that also included 20 more lawyers. McKee Nelson merged later that same year with Bingham McCutchen, an Am Law 100 firm that collapsed two years ago.
Their exits mean that all 10 of these partners have now left Ashurst, after Alice Yurke joined Jones Day in 2011, Richard Davis decamped to DLA Piper in 2013, Scott Faga and Eugene Ferrer left for Paul Hastings in 2015 and Michael Voldstad retired from the partnership earlier this year as part of the restructuring.
According to Ashurst’s website, there are currently 22 nonpartner lawyers in New York. Ten of these have biographies listing CLO’s as part of their practice, with six suggesting it to be an area of particular focus. Ashurst declined to comment on what will happen to these lawyers as a result of the restructuring.
The move away from CLO work and the partner exits are linked to the departure of a three-partner securitization team also focusing on CLO work from Ashurst’s London office last year to join Paul Hastings.
“We restructured the U.S. practice earlier on in the year and these departures are a consequence of that. The CLO practice is less relevant to our global structured finance practice,” said managing partner Paul Jenkins. “We will not be replacing the CLO team and we will be focusing our investment on practices which operate successfully across our platform. The departures to Chapman and Cutler will not be detrimental to the profitability of our U.S. or global business.”
Ashurst global head of finance Helen Burton told sibling publication Legal Week that the firm is still committed to the U.S., where many large British firms have faltered in recent years.
“The firm is still committed to the U.S. [But] we’re looking at the finance practice on a holistic basis,” Burton said. “We no longer have a global CLO practice so it no longer made sense to maintain the existing operation in the U.S.”
Despite the exits, Burton maintained that Ashurst expected to expand its offering in New York in the coming months. “I would anticipate that the New York office will make further hires over the next 12 months in areas including projects and banking,” she said.
No other partners in the U.S. or practices elsewhere will be affected by the restructuring.
The departures leave Ashurst with four partners in New York focusing on banking, energy and infrastructure.
Earlier this summer, Ashurst announced an 11.5 percent profit per equity partner hike to £672,000 ($875,962) for fiscal 2016-17, against a 7 percent increase in gross revenue. But that growth, which followed a difficult 2015-16, one in which equity partner profits plummeted almost 20 percent and gross revenue dipped 10 percent, came alongside a 6.5 percent decline in Ashurst’s equity partner numbers.