Ashurst goes on a diet

For a while there it looked like Ashurst would get away with just the fallout from its war on real estate and energy.

The perception that senior management considered anything other than corporate and finance as peripheral was reinforced when the firm shifted six real estate partners and three in energy, transport and infrastructure down its infamous lockstep, despite the supposed centrality of energy to its Australasian push and infrastructure to its US business.

Cue the exodus of real estate partners Simon Cookson, construction partner Marc Hanson, energy partners Anthony Patten and Louise Eccleston and, this week, real estate funds partners David Evans and Samantha Lake Coghlan.

But now it’s clear other parts of Ashurst are to be slimmed down too. Today’s news is that litigation head Michael Madden and fellow disputes partners Wilson Thorburn and Arundel McDougall are leaving. Madden’s destination is not yet announced, while Thorburn is joining JPMorgan as EMEA litigation head (see story).

Ashurst senior partner Charlie Geffen is known for his obsession with improving remuneration systems and his ruthless take on ironing out sources of unprofitability in the firm. What form the lockstep will take when Ashurst merges with Aussie firm Blake Dawson next March is a source of eager anticipation among Geffen’s fellow hawks outside the firm.

It had once seemed that Ashurst’s job was to get Blakes into line to make sure profitability is matching. Maybe it’s the other way round?