Corporate lawyers at Ashurst and DLA Piper are volunteering to work on restructuring and insolvency mandates in a bid to help tackle the mounting work resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Partners at both firms say corporate lawyers with relevant experience are jumping across to take on R&I work as M&A volumes fall and increasing numbers of companies fight for survival.

Neither firm has a formal programme in place to move lawyers across or pool resources between service practices, however the shift is happening on a more ad hoc and flexible basis.

Ashurst global restructuring head Giles Boothman said that the restructuring practice was “exceptionally busy”. 

“I’ve almost never known such a demand for restructuring and insolvency advice from all sorts of quarters … it’s a complete cessation of global economic activity with all of the ramifications of that.”

According to Boothman, the firm has been able to assemble a large team of experienced practitioners, with assistance from lawyers volunteering their expertise. In part the firm’s position has been helped by the recent high-profile mandate advising the Official Receiver on the administration of Thomas Cook and many are alumni of this project.

For the Thomas Cook administration, the firm drew together a team of 130 practitioners, many of whom have now developed six months’ experience in the practice.

The firm has also taken on a former partner as a consultant in order to provide “extra firepower” Boothman added. 

Meanwhile at DLA Piper, a partner with knowledge of the situation said that corporate lawyers with the relevant experience were providing additional support for the R&I practice.

Other firms have also taken measures to support their R&I practices. In March, CMS confirmed that the firm was looking to pool lawyers with R&I experience across other teams in the firm to assist the dedicated R&I team in managing the increasing COVID-19-related workload.

Elsewhere, Hogan Lovells is considering offering secondments to its restructuring practice for lawyers in London and New York, according to its head of restructuring, Tom Astle.

Several restructurings and administrations have emerged in Europe in recent weeks, with casualties including retailers Debenhams and Cath Kidston as well as Laura Ashley.

Meanwhile, the volume of European M&A in March fell to its lowest level in a decade.

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