Ashursts plans US move

Ashurst Morris Crisp has put US capability and even a marriage with a US partner high up on its agenda again, a year after merger talks with West Coast firm Latham & Watkins collapsed over cultural differences.

US capability was among topics discussed at a partner retreat in Versailles a week ago. One partner told The Lawyer: “We’re conscious that we need US capability to do the financing we need for banking and corporate if we want to get on the list of approved panels, and that we haven’t got it yet.

“Whatever publicity we produce talking about European expansion, it doesn’t resolve the short to medium-term need to expand our US capability. You could go out with a cheque book, but that won’t give enough critical mass. It may involve taking other teams; it may also mean an acquisition.”

The capability gap was highlighted by the hire of a Weil Gotshal & Manges capital markets team (The Lawyer, 26 March). The group’s lead partner Erica Handling said it would use Ashursts’ existing relationships with US firms.

European strategy was also discussed at the meeting. The firm plans to set up European desks in London which will include representatives from each of the overseas offices.