Ashurst is edging closer to a merger with Australian outfit Blake Dawson as the UK firm’s management presses for a vote in early autumn.
The firm is understood to have set up an internal working group of some 25-30 partners to work on plans for an Australian presence.
A source close to the firm said a deal depended on senior management seeing off dissent from a faction in the firm understood to be opposed to the project.
The plan is seen as an attempt to boost the firm’s access to the Asian market. Revenue in the region rose by 50 per cent in the 2010-11 financial year, making up 7 per cent of global income.
Ashurst already has offices in Hong Kong, while both it and Blakes have Singapore and Tokyo bases.
A deal would see Ashurst follow Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, DLA Piper and Norton Rose into Australia. Herbert Smith is also understood to be eyeing up opportunities Down Under.
Ashurst has traditionally expanded organically rather than through mergers, but is said to be mulling options as it bids to increase profitability. It has until now shared an informal referral relationship with Blakes.