Ashurst is set to target activist hedge funds in a move it hopes will give it first-mover advantage in the evolving M&A landscape.
Ashurst's new strategy sets it apart from other City firms, which have been wary of activist hedge funds because of the potential for conflicts of interest.
Ashurst head of corporate Adrian Clark said the firm is reviewing how best to tackle activist hedge funds in a response to their increasing importance on the M&A landscape. The objective is not only to target activist hedge funds, but to better understand funds and their tactics so that effective advice can be given to corporate clients, which have increasingly met with activism that can lead to forced sales or disrupted mergers.
Several recent deals, such as ABN Amro and Countrywide, have been triggered or affected by activist funds.
Allen & Overy (A&O) is one example of a rival that will not act for activist hedge funds because of conflicts with its corporate clients. Corporate partner Andrew Ballheimer said: "Activist funds have their own agenda that isn't consistent with what's best for plcs. They're essentially there to extract value for themselves."
Ashurst has revealed a record average profit per equity partner (PEP) for the last financial year.
PEP shot up by 36 per cent to £956,000, while turnover was confirmed at £275m. Ashurst's PEP is now the third highest in the City, according to Top of the PEPs on www.thelawyer.com.